Three-tier coronavirus system needs to be united with government intervention

?Yesterday the UK government confirmed its three-tier lockdown rule to protect the public from coronavirus.

Yet the system may complicate matters for businesses and people leaders trying to remain operational in high and very high risk areas.

According to a survey commissioned by Highways England’s Driving for Better Business (DfBB) programme, less than half (39%) of UK businesses currently have plans in place to deal with localised lockdowns.

A further two thirds of companies in the survey also admitted they had no plans for a second wave of COVID-19.

Where new plans for how to react to stricter lockdown measures may need to be put in place, people teams are also still left grappling with access to support funds from the government.

Speaking to HR magazine Eugenio Pirri, chief people and culture officer at The Dorchester Collection, said that while he believed the three-tier system is a step in the right direction, more may need to be done to unite this system with other aspects of government intervention.

He said: “The country needs specific and detailed information that can be communicated effectively to a large audience. The government needs to continue to join all the information they are sharing together, with other important factors such as financial support measures and enforcement realities, so that proper and sustained planning can take place.”

The main issue, Pirri said, was that the Job Support Scheme (JSS) lacks the logic of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in that it has “been tailored to support only some businesses and not in a manner that will save jobs and keep people employed in the long-term.”

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Labour Force Survey (June to August) showed that the unemployment rate (up 0.4% on the prior quarter) and the number of redundancies have continued to increase, while the employment rate has decreased.

As in prior quarters, commentators expect that the CJRS is still masking the true scale of COVID-19’s impact on the job market.

Kirsty Rogers, employment partner at legal business DWF, said: "The governments' announcement of the three-tier system encompassing strict local lockdowns coupled with the closure of the CJRS at the end of this month indicates that we can expect a more significant increase in the unemployment figures going forward.”

Although it is likely that redundancies will continue to rise Teresa Boughey, founder and CEO of consultancy business Jungle HR, urged employers to consider job cuts as a last resort.

She said: “If you’ve engaged with your workforce then invite them to offer alternative solutions to redundancy for consideration. But if you have to go down the redundancy route, then follow rules and don’t take short cuts as this will come back to bite you.”

Matt Weston, managing director of recruitment firm Robert Half UK, also said that the three-tier system and latest ONS figures means that “the UK’s employment picture remains very uncertain.”

According to his firm’s research, Weston added that four in five companies are concerned about losing key staff due to pay cuts and a lack of pay rises.

He argued that non-financial incentives, including wellbeing programmes and access to mental health resources, will become even more important in the months ahead.

Tim Pointer, senior vice president human resources at CAA-GBG Global Brand Management added that both announcements reinforce the focus business leaders and CHROs place on protecting their organisations.

He told HR magazine: "This requires every leadership team to be super clear on how businesses win during a COVID-19 recession; on what their teams need to do differently as a result; and on how we care for one another’s health and wellbeing, and deliver on our responsibilities within the community."

Boughey advised the HR profession to look after itself as well as its people.

She added: “COVID-19 has already placed a huge amount of pressure on HR colleagues as they have grappled with supporting the workforce through furlough, managing absences, supporting staff wellbeing, making the work environment COVID safe, and managing redundancies can be an equally challenging task.”

“You can’t support others well if you’re running on fumes so make sure you have a solid support network around you too.”