A poll carried out by BPE Solicitors at their joint annual Employment Law Seminar with CIPD Gloucestershire branch revealed unsurprisingly, that 58% of HR professionals believe COVID-19 will be the biggest challenge facing businesses in the next 12 months.
Nick Rowe, Head of Employment at BPE, looks at what this means from a business perspective and how employers can protect their staff.
It can’t be said enough, we’re living in unprecedented times and businesses are doing everything they can to stay afloat and to keep people in jobs. The latest statistics show that nationally, redundancies reached a record high of 314,000, however in the South West, although 18% of SMEs said they had decreased their staff levels, 15% have hired new members of staff, leaving a defecit of just 3% (Federation of Small Businesses). These statistics provide a ray of hope that there is confidence in the business market, and this shouldn’t be overlooked by employers who are considering making redundancies.
With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme now announced to continue to March 2021, businesses are still utilising furlough to avoid redundancies. Indeed, of the people surveyed, 32% said that furlough had avoided redundancies in their workplace but unfortunately, 39% said that they feared redundancies would be required when the scheme finally comes to an end.
As a result of the COVID-19 challenge, HR professionals also identified employee wellbeing and remote working as challenges for 2021. Obviously mental health is of huge concern in the current climate and employers should do what they can to support employees and colleagues who might be struggling. My colleague Sarah has recently written about supporting employees through lockdown 2 which I encourage you to read.
With Brexit becoming more prominent in the news, this brings more challenges for businesses (4% of our poll identified this), meaning 2021 will be a very interesting year as we have adjusted to this new normal, and as we come to the end of the CJRS, businesses will be looking at cost cutting measures.
If your business is planning to make redundancies in the coming months, we would encourage you to seek legal advice as there are a number of risks involved, which could leave your business exposed to claims and can, with focused advice, be avoided, or at least reduced.
If you have any queries, please feel free to contact Nick Rowe (firstname.lastname@example.org 01242 248237) or another member of our Employment team.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.
We will be hosting bitesize events throughout 2020 and into early 2021 to help businesses navigate the challenges of the pandemic as well as other key legal developments.
On 26 November from 09:30 until 10:30, join Sarah Lee and Heyma Holmes as they explore how best to manage employees suffering with poor mental health. To book your free place, click here.