HR2day, a Darlington-based HR provider, is reminding businesses that communication with staff is key while navigating the current confusion caused by coronavirus.
The firm, which gives advice to small and medium-sized enterprises across the North East, has seen growing concern in business leaders about how to cope with potential layoffs, enforced holiday and sick pay, and how these could impact them from a legal perspective.
Following the advice from the prime minister on Monday, several companies have given employees the opportunity to work from home, however with the number of coronavirus cases rising exponentially on a daily basis, there is concern about how businesses will cope if high levels of the workforce are forced to take sick leave.
HR2day’s founder and managing director, Nicky Jolley, is encouraging business leaders to communicate with staff, to ensure they understand why decisions are being made, and work together to produce the best results for both the individual and the business.
Nicky said: “Businesses have got to look after the staff because they can’t function without them. Everyone’s got to support each other, be flexible and use their common sense in the current climate. We’ve been running online sessions through the platform Zoom, which have had great feedback, allowing us to give advice to business leaders as well as providing peer to peer support.
“Smaller businesses could find that, due to the decline in work caused by the coronavirus, they need to lay staff off. I would advise they proceed with caution, stick to contracts as much as possible and ensure their communication with staff takes place on a regular basis and is clear. This will put them in a better position should the case be taken to tribunal later.
“Laying people off is a short to medium-term solution to an issue, where people may be out of work for four to six weeks, but there is a risk to the employer that the employee could ask for redundancy if they’re not brought back in a period that is acceptable to them, which could be costly.”
Communication is also beneficial to ensuring the mental wellbeing of staff during a time when emotions may be running high.
Nicky continued: “There will be employees who suffer financial hardship as a result of reduced wages or moving on to statutory sick pay for an extended period, and we must be mindful of this, rather than approaching it as ‘collateral damage.’ Where possible, you may be able to point them in the direction of relevant benefits agencies or look at the government funding available to your business to support staff.
“What is most essential is that firms don’t use this time as an excuse to get rid of staff or cut costs where they’re not needed. This will have a negative impact on staff wellbeing and could also lead to problems if they face a tribunal down the line.”