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East Midlands Chamber News

RWS creates return to work 'People First' strategy

Resilient World Solutions (RWS) has been helping businesses review the decisions that they have been making during the pandemic, identifying a range of findings, such as the need to capture best practice, the need to maintain a risk register and also an “opportunities” register arising from innovation.

However, it is mental health awareness week and reviews conducted last week identified the need to strengthen organisations' responses to staff welfare and adopt a “People First” strategy.

Key legislation that businesses when framing strategies include:

  • Health and safety - The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 - overarching duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of employees, other workers and members of the public who may be affected by the employer’s operations.
  • Common law duty of care – you must take reasonable care of the safety, avoiding exposing  any unnecessary risks and ensure a safe system of work. Employers also have a duty to maintain trust and confidence with employees
  • UN Guiding principles on business human rights
  • The three pillars of the Guiding Principles – “Protect, Respect and Remedy” –  set out how governments and business should put people at the centre of how business is done
  • The first pillar – the State duty to protect human rights. The role of States in ensuring responsible business conduct during the crisis and the recovery
  • The second pillar of the Guiding Principles – the business responsibility to respect human rights – applies regardless of how governments are meeting their obligations and applies in all contexts
  • Responsibility of businesses extends beyond the business’ own activities, either when contributing to adverse impacts caused by others, or when directly linked to their operations, products or services through adverse impacts caused by business relationships. For example, businesses should assess impacts on workers in their supply chain, going beyond the first tier, and expect the same from their business partners and suppliers
  • 3rd pillar – access to remedy for all workers, so the ability to report issues and gain access to remediation and businesses have duty to ensure availability of such measures.

Welfare of all staff including those working from home – working from home policy, welfare, health and safety law (e.g. have you asked them to complete a risk assessment at home?).

The kind of issues staff are worrying about include the following:

  • Physically returning to the workplace
  • Social distancing on sites
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • How cases of coronavirus are dealt with
  • Time off and sick pay
  • Job security
  • Safety in their communities
  • Conflicting government information
  • Child-care arrangements while children are still off school
  • Roles as carers for elderly or ill family members

There is no one size fits all and leaders have to be pro-active to manage these concerns, paying particular attention to vulnerable people in their workforces, like:

  • Workers with pre-existing mental health conditions (1 in 4 people will suffer mental health illness in their lifetime.)
  • Workers with pre-existing physical health conditions
  • Migrant workers
  • Pregnant workers
  • Increased risk of domestic violence – there has been a large rise in incidents and victims of DV are known to be more vulnerable in the workplace
  • Increase in alcohol and drug dependency and abuse

Three key tests before bringing staff back to the workplace:

  • Is it essential?
  • Is it sufficiently safe?
  • Is it mutually agreed?

Communication Strategy in support of “People First”:

  • Success also depends on a good communication strategy; you cannot be an observer need to take a leadership stand
  • Compassion and communication – need to take a pro-active stance, communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Good communication strategies have moved on from the early stages of the pandemic where establishing staff were safe and well was the priority , a more mature strategy will consider emotional wellbeing of staff as well as re-assurance on and business continuity –considering the fears staff have about work, financial security and family considerations.
  • Employees need to know you are looking out for them
  • Understand from staff what else can you do to help them? need to think how can you continue to show compassion and continued flexibility?
  • Managers share information regularly and workers feel able to speak up and ask questions with good two-way comms strategies where workers can raise concerns and issues quickly AND see these being dealt with promptly and sensitively