As more workplaces are re-opening, along with concerns of the Employee, even those of the Employers are important. This is a two part series addressing employer concerns. In this first part let us look at the common concerns.
Unlock 4 to Unlock 5
Governments and People are realizing that lockdowns can’t be an answer to curb the spread of Covid, though it has had its a measure of success. This has resulted in the gradual lifting of the restrictions by the authorities. Today we are moving from Unlock 4 phase to Unlock 5 phase.
As we take strides ahead by re-opening shops, offices and public transports the need for addressing the concerns of the employees becomes essential. There exist many challenges like social distancing in the workplace which hang high on the minds of employees.
Both the employers as well the governing bodies need to be empathetic to the concerns of employees. This will encourage the employees to come back to work with confidence. At the same time, the Employers have their own concerns in terms of how best to address all these. Being hyperlocal can help to be Covid-19 compliant.
Returning to work – Employer concerns
Typically the employees get the focus and concerns of the employers get often sidelined. The government and authorities have tried to give some sites to address some of these concerns like the Guidance by CDC, USA, and advisory by Ministry of Labour and Employment, India. These are more towards how authorities want the workplaces to run.
The reality is that some of these might be adding to the concerns of Employers. There are some independent surveys done too. Some of the common concerns that employers have as per one such survey conducted like the one by Littler, an employment law practice:
The government regulations worldwide have mandated that employees testing positive need to be given paid leaves. Even those who would have come in contact with such a positive person would need to be given leaves to ensure that the rest of the staff remains safe. Employers and HR departments are reworking or adjusting their policies to align with these regulations.
Another major concern is about how to genuinely determine whether the absence from work of the employee should be paid or not. There may be employees who would be genuinely falling sick and maybe choosing to stay at home so that others are not affected. At the same time, there could be employees who may choose to fall sick and go on leave. It becomes difficult to explicitly differentiate between them.
Another concern that has come across, employees claiming falsely to have come in contact with a suspected covid case or a positive case. They would go on sick leaves which may be paid as this was being done for general safety and the infection was from the workplace. These cases become difficult to identify and hence would cause loss of productivity as well as an additional expense for the company.
Other common aspects that are adding to HR and Employer concerns are about those employees who must care for children or other family members. In such trying times how can these be handled in the best possible ways?
One major concern for most employers is employee safety. They are concerned about how they can ensure that the workplace is safe and comply with the regulations. These measures include spreading awareness on hygiene and social distancing as well as ensuring regular cleaning of public places.
Some of the other measures taken by Employers and Management include restricting travel, avoidance of meeting as much as possible, and sticking to other means like video conferencing instead of a physical meetup. Employers even encourage employees to work from home.
Despite all these measures, the possibility of infection still remains open due to various unknowns and unpredictability in the work situation. Not all can work from home and they would need to work from the office. Safety in the workplace can be implemented, but when the employee is traveling it becomes difficult to ensure and track compliance. Many times employees have to work with Vendors and others outside the organization coming with a different culture. Also one would never come to know if this external person became covid positive later.
In today’s world, work and the workplace are where we tend to spend a major part of our life. The workplace dynamics, co-worker relationships play an important role in the mental disposition of the employee. It is a known fact that productivity is directly linked with the mental frame of mind of an employee. In such a pandemic situation managing this becomes an important function for the employers and management.
The key question is how to address employee anxiety over concerns regarding the virus. Employers and managers are well aware of the importance and therefore keen to ensure that they are addressing the employee concerns when asking them to work from the office. They have to also ensure that while doing so they strike the right chord and avoid causing employee panic.
Employers are therefore working with the HRs to provide resources and support so that the employees can cope with the stress. They have to do so along with managing the legal aspects as well as the operational impact of these measures while keeping the employee morale high.
As a measure to ensure complete control, governments have advised temporary closure of units where an employee reports positive with Covid. This definitely brings in a lot of disruption not just in terms of productivity but also in terms of focus. The Employers are already under a lot of pressure with business needing to restart and that too from a low point in terms of sales. Any such incident would break the flow and would need to shift to additional activities of reporting and compliances. This now is changing but still, the risk looms.
This is another sensitive concern of the employers as well as the HR department. Questions about how to handle the fact that the revenue and business have taken a hit. Cash flow cycles have increased if not choked. The businesses may be having to keep producing and delivering but may not get paid by the customers. Under these circumstances, how best to handle the compensation of the employees has become a nightmare for many.
Many have responded in different ways. Some of them have reduced the pays, some may have delayed them. There are others who might have let go or asked some of the employees to go on unpaid leaves. At the same time, there is huge pressure from regulations to avoid measures that directly impact employment. Employers are therefore looking for more innovative ways out so that both employers and employees are in a win-win situation.
Employees now are working from home and there would be an underlying concern about productivity. Additionally, with the Unlock procedures following through, workplaces are restarting. Employees whose nature of work requires them to work from the office are reporting to work. This has led to a subtle question as to should people working from home and those working from office be compensated the same.
The situation everyone faces is a new one and unprecedented. It would therefore be natural that such new challenges come forth. As the situation keeps moving ahead, there are bound to be new facets which are going to be unfolding. Nevertheless, in our next blog in this series, we will look at how to address some of these concerns discussed here and see how technologies like internet of things can play a role.