Over the summer, if you squinted, it looked and felt like things were slowly returning back to a more recognisable state but unfortunately as we are all aware cases of Covid 19 seem to be on the rise. Localised restrictions have been put in place for many parts of the country and there is talk of a dreaded second lockdown if things continue the way they are – apparently people are panic buying loo roll again already!!
The only possible up-side of these warnings is that we can be slightly more prepared than we were at the start of the year. The Great British Bake Off has started so have you got in your supplies of flour?!
Businesses should already have their end of furlough plan ready or at the very least be thinking about what they will do at the end of October if they are still utilising the scheme but what will happen in a worst case if non-essential shops and manufacturers are forced to close again with no furlough to help them and their employees? We don’t have any hint yet as to whether there will be any additional Government support in this case.
Planning for a full second lockdown is crucial, even if it is a short-term one, whilst hopefully not ever to be needed. With the news on 22 September that office workers should return to working from home wherever possible, there are considerations to be made even if there is not a full national lockdown.
As business owners you will now already know who can and can’t work remotely, I would imagine that many of you still have employees who are working that way. Setting up remote working was a urgent reaction to a situation with very little time to prepare, but probably not a long-term plan back in March, so what has changed now? If you plan to keep your employees working remotely then if you haven’t already done so, it is time to take a proper look at their situations. Where are they working from? Pitching up at the dining table or working on the sofa is not a long-term plan. Initially employees needed a laptop and Wi-Fi to get them going but proper workspaces are needed, real desks, screens and all the other equipment they would usually have in an office. Unfortunately to have all this you also need space and most of us don’t have the room for an office so what adjustments do you need to look at?
You have a duty of care to the health and wellbeing of your employees. How will a second lockdown affect them mentally as well as physically? The statistics and studies on the rise of mental health concerns during the last six months are not for bedtime reading. Planning for a second lockdown also involves planning on how to support your employees’ mental well-being and that is often going to take more than a weekly zoom social.
How will your business cope if it is in an area on local lockdown and the working restrictions are further tightened? Do you have other premises that you could move the work to so that the business can still fully function? What about the employees in the locked down area? Will you still be able to pay them if they can’t work due to any part of your business being closed down? What other options do you have? Can you implement a short-term layoff? Can you vary contract terms? Without the CJRS (furlough scheme) in place as a safety net after 31 October you may be forced to make even tougher decisions than you have had to up until now.
One of the big concerns for employers and some of their employees is “what happens if the schools close again?” Vast amounts of workers have parental or caring responsibilities and I think it’s safe to say that while no parent really wants to go back to home learning and juggling a job, it’s a possibility that employees with any parental or caring responsibilities will find themselves stretched in another lockdown situation. How will you as an employer manage it? Will it cause rifts in your workforce with those employees that don’t have these types of responsibilities?
Benjamin Franklin said “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”. Not thinking about and planning for a second lockdown when you have the opportunity to do so is a risky strategy and may result in your business not being ready to effectively weather either a local or national lockdown.
If you are at all concerned about what this all means for you or don’t know where to start with your planning we would be happy help you and will be even happier if you never need to use it!