Supporting your employees during the current lockdown.

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You would have to be under a rock not to not know about the third lockdown in England that started in January this year. We had all hoped that 2021 would be a better prospect, three vaccines already approved and more on the way, the future is brighter. But…

As with the previous lockdowns both primary and secondary education establishments are closed until further notice.  The differences between the previous lockdowns and now are vast, especially if you are a working parent, or have caring responsibilities…

The poor weather, fatigue from the endless lack of routine and the potential and constant challenge of balancing work and home life, along with the constant ‘parental’ guilt and worry – juggling and wearing so many different hats; parent, employee, carer, and perhaps spouse of someone with mental health issues. Being pulled in so many different directions. Life is hard for so many people at the moment.  

Parents with school aged children are once again being forced to try and balance working from home with childcare responsibilities. How can you help your employees with these challenges?

Offer more leave or agree to staff being furloughed

Many companies are offering more leave for their staff. Consider offering “lockdown leave” for parents and carers facing childcare emergencies or, offering to furlough employees who are struggling with homeschooling their children. As opposed to them having to puck up the courage to ask you to furlough them. Preempt the conversation.

Employees have a right to be furloughed if they have childcare responsibilities. (there are exceptions – if your salary bill is publicly funded). It may be that your employees perhaps don’t want to be furloughed. Discuss the flexible furlough option, but if that is not going to work, what else can you do in these circumstances?  

Be flexible

It is vital that as an employer, you recognise the signs of fatigue and mental health issues in your team. Many parents could be struggling to work alongside increasing childcare responsibilities and/ or their children’s mental health issues. Goodness only knows the effects of not seeing friends and the normality of a school routine is having on the younger members of our society.

A range of flexible working arrangements, reduced hours, working outside of ‘usual’ working hours, altered role responsibilities, or, for part-time employees the offer to split their hours over more days.

It may be better for employees who don’t want to work reduced hours, potentially on reduced pay, for them to work a few hours at the weekend? As long as this is not seen as creating more stress with compromising home/work-life balance. Take each case as it comes, listen and be flexible.

You could also discuss unpaid leave, or using their holiday. If you don’t normally allow holiday carry over and people have been unable to take last years entitlement despite being “at work”, change your rules until normality returns. Allow carryover.   The option of parental leave can also be discussed.

Corona job retention scheme

Speak to your staff about the furlough scheme, you can use the system flexibly and offer part-time furlough. If your employee and their spouse have shared responsibility for their children, this may be a way forward. Check the eligibility, your staff must have been on PAYE payroll latest the 30th October 2020.

As an employer, you can claim under the scheme even if you have not used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) before or have not furloughed the employee previously. There is no limit to the number of employees you can furlough and there is no set duration of time.

Flexible furlough is a great option, meaning employees can work part-time and receive a furlough grant for their unworked hours.

Have honest and transparent conversations – regularly

If you have had a conversation with your team, and all was ok, check when that was – have things changed? Check-in regularly… There is increased fatigue with employees and parents, probably much more so than in the first two shutdowns.

Have honest conversations and set realistic expectations about what can be achieved in the hours available. Help with the prioritising of tasks, and ensure that output is measured by output not how many hours they actually work. It may be the case that there is only one laptop available within the home environment. If the business can be flexible on working hours this may ease the stress for timetabling work and school hours, significantly easing the stress.

Previous lockdowns were arguably easier with better weather; we all hoped they would be short term. Now nearly a year in, the way you engage with your teams has to change. For their mental health, for the sake of productivity and to maintain home and work-life balance.

Times are tough. Vaccination programmes are in sight, but that does not help with the frustration and stress caused by everyday pressures of the here and now. Focus on your employee’s mental health and engagement levels, if you need some help with specific situations – we are here to help.

#employeeengagement #CJRS #flexibleworking #homeworklifebalance #wethrivepartner #OH

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