One in six organisations expect to have staff who refuse to return to traditional workplace after pandemic

ALMOST one in six organisations expect to have staff who refuse to return to their traditional workplace after the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a study from a leading law firm.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 3:32 pm
The pandemic has affected every aspect of life in Britain.

However, the survey from Schofield Sweeney found that an estimated 90 per cent of organisations have not developed any policies to deal with employees who insist on continuing to work from home.

Around 69 per cent of respondents expect their employees’ mental health to have suffered during the crisis.

Schofield Sweeney’s ‘Covid-19: The vaccination challenge and returning to work safely’ survey captures the views of senior leaders from businesses, schools and charities at one of the most critical phases of the pandemic.

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Around 55 per cent of respondents said they didn’t know if they had any employees who were unable to have the vaccination on health grounds.

In a statement, Schofield Sweeney said: "Over 60 per cent hadn’t made and didn’t intend to make any adjustments for unvaccinated staff or those unwilling to return."

Only 39 per cent of respondents had amended or introduced new health and safety policies specifically to deal with mental health.

The spokesman added: "Despite the gloomy headlines in recent months, however, the survey shows that many organisations have shown remarkable resilience in adapting to the challenging situation, with 71% of respondents able to operate fully during the crisis as they were either unaffected by lockdown, adapted workplace procedures or implemented a work-from-home policy.

"Many will now will be conducting or have planned a health survey of their employees."

Simon Shepherd, head of the employment team at Schofield Sweeney, commented: “As part of a health questionnaire, an organisation might ask an employee if they’ve had the

vaccine or will have it, but it’s tricky to ask why they are not having it.

"An employer would need a good reason to ask this question and it will depend on the sector and nature of the work undertaken.”

Craig Burman, head of the Environmental and Regulatory team at Schofield Sweeney, said: “Employers will have to keep clinically vulnerable staff safe as we return to normal and

social distancing measures are relaxed.

"Those unvaccinated staff who remain at a high risk from the virus will need all reasonable practicable measures to keep them safe, and this will also extend to staff who live with clinically vulnerable family members.”

Here are Schofield Sweeney's strategies for managing the return to work:

• Encourage an open culture where employees feel comfortable sharing their intentions regarding vaccines.

• Develop a voluntary health questionnaire to obtain information on employees health and health-related concerns.

• Maintain an up-to-date record of vulnerable employees (and their immediate family members) and implement any adjustments to ensure their working environment is safe.

• Ensure you have the systems and procedures in place to allay any reasonable fears about a ‘safe workplace’.

• Find out sooner rather than later if certain employees are concerned about returning to work.

• Be flexible with your return to work programme and follow government guidelines.

• Make sure mental health is taken seriously as a wellbeing issue.

• Check your existing employee assistance programme for mental health support.

• Implement regular staff training on HR policies and programmes.

• Learn from the positive changes and embed them into your practices going forward.

• Regular testing is a critical part of the government’s roadmap in easing restrictions. Free workplace testing is now available to all businesses, including those with fewer than 50 employees.

Schofield Sweeney has offices in Bradford, Leeds and Huddersfield.