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Supporting Staff back to Work after Furlough

Last month we saw the biggest lift in restrictions across England and Wales since late 2020, with indoor hospitality venues finally being allowed to open including pubs, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, and the rules on international travel also easing.

According to Government statistics, there were still 4.7 million employees on furlough in February 2021, with the hospitality sector making up the largest proportion of furloughed staff, followed by the retail industry.

As demand for these services increases, more businesses will start to bring their furloughed employees back to workplace and this can feel like a daunting prospect for both employer and employee.

Putting measures in place to help ease staff back will be critical to ensuring a smooth transition and an effective restart to the business.

Here are some things to consider:

1. Health and Safety Assessment

If your business has been temporarily closed over recent months, it is essential that a risk assessment is carried out to ensure that the workplace is covid secure for employees and customers. The Government has released updated guidelines to support with this. Getting these measures right in the first instance will protect the business against any complaints or fines and will help staff to feel reassured that their health and safety is at the top of the agenda when they return.

2. Communication

In advance of bringing people back from furlough it is wise to have a period of consultation whereby staff can discuss any concerns they may have and measures can be put in place to alleviate any worries. Although employers aren’t legally required to give set notice for recalling an employee back to work, it is best practise to give at least a week’s notice in order for people to make any necessary arrangements before coming back, such as childcare or travel plans. Informing staff about the covid secure processes that they’ll be required to follow in advance will help them to feel more comfortable on the first day and avoid any unnecessary risks.

3. Re-induction

Holding a re-induction for each member of staff upon their return is a great way to reintegrate them back into the business, providing a reminder of key processes as well as an update on any new ways of doing things. Depending on the nature of the job and how long staff have been away, it may be sensible to deliver refresher training sessions on certain aspects of their role so that staff can hit the ground running and feel as confident as possible. This is a great opportunity to highlight any skills or knowledge gaps and address them early on.

4. Team building

Integrating people back into the team and helping them to feel connected with the company’s culture will be key to keeping staff engaged and productive. It’s likely that there will be a period of adjustment as staff get used to working again, especially if the business is particularly busy, so having strong connections and a sense of belonging will help them to stay motivated. Building in time for socialising and establishing a culture whereby staff can give feedback and feel supported will all help in building strong and committed teams.

5. Prioritising wellbeing

The impact of lockdown, furlough and the uncertainty that has dominated the last year and a bit has affected everyone’s mental health in one way or another. Some people may be feeling anxious about the return to work, others may be worried about socialising again and some people may have a genuine fear about catching the virus in the workplace. Employers need to ensure that wellbeing is a top priority and that staff feel valued and supported in the return to work. Establishing a clear wellbeing strategy utilising occupational health and other mental health organisations should help with this.

Paterson Group would like to wish all the hospitality and retail businesses the best of luck in getting back up and running.

If you require additional staff who are reliable and raring to go, please contact our team today!

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