What are the latest people issues in the recruitment sector?

Happy New Year (or is it?)

Just before Christmas, the UK Government urged all of us work from home if we can. Although not as stringent as the Scottish government’s legal requirement for employers to encourage home working, for sectors largely dependent on staff being in the office or on site, the announcement was still devastating.

Even before Christmas, the hospitality sector had been calling on the Government for support as thousands of bookings were cancelled at the last minute. As we come out of the Christmas period, hard-hit sectors are still waiting for that help to arrive.

Managing your workforce changes

Without a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) or an equivalent, employers have to manage staff who would otherwise be furloughed as best they can. This could include:

  • re-deploying staff to less affected areas of the business, or to cover absences due to high levels of holiday or isolation absences; 
  • enforcing use of annual leave (where appropriate and ideally in consultation with the employees);
  • arranging for time off in lieu to be used;
  • short-time working or temporary lay-offs where possible (employers are encouraged to take advice to ensure compliance); and
  • agreeing new arrangements with employees as an alternative to anything more final, like redundancy.  

Employers should be careful to follow correct procedures. Good consultation on changes, and explicit consent to them, will help to avoid any future issues and potential claims.  

Temporary change to fit note requirements for employers

If you blinked before Christmas, you may have missed this one: to help GPs to manage the vaccination booster roll-out, the government announced a temporary change to fit note requirements for employers. Employers and recruiters are reminded that between 10 December 2021 and 26 January 2022, employers cannot ask employees to go to their doctor for proof of sickness until the absence has lasted for 28 days or more, but Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) cannot be withheld due to late medical evidence.

This is a fairly big change from the usual requirement of a medical certificate after seven days of absence, and many employers may find it difficult to manage.   

However, this is just a temporary change to the notification procedure. While employers cannot ask for proof of non-covid related absences during this time, it is still possible to ask for proof of a positive test or isolation request for covid-related absences. 

Absence management

Covid cases have reached highs of over 100,000 a day, so employers need to prepare for higher than usual absences during January and February. By some estimates, absence levels in some sectors are set to reach closer to 15 to 20 per cent in the next month or so.   

A sensible absence management plan is likely to be high on the agenda for many organisations. Employers concerned about their own approach should consider speaking to an HR professional.

Permanent change to digital right to work checks

Finally, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) has successfully managed to canvas the Government to make right to work checks digital from 6 April 2022. It is now asking the Government to consider the costs involved for small businesses. 

If any of the above issues concern you, please contact your usual RSM contact or Kerri Constable, our HR Consultancy expert. 

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