HR advice for SMEs

I hope all is going well and business is returning to some sort of normality? As we move forward, I thought it might be worthwhile to outline a few areas of HR advice for SMEs to consider over the coming months.
Working from home
If your team are able to work from home, and you’re happy for them to do so, then great! If homeworking is an option you’re able to support moving forward, I would suggest having a homeworking policy in place. This should outline the rules, including the homeworking environment, use of equipment, health and safety and data protection. It’s also a good idea to have an agreement in place with the individual to confirm the period of homeworking (I suggest this is reviewed regularly to ensure it’s working for both parties), expectations on the individual, hours of work, equipment to be issued etc. Set clear, measurable targets to be reviewed regularly and consider having a weekly or monthly report from the individual. It’s important to remain in regular contact with all employees working from home to ensure they are not adversely affected; it is easy to feel isolated and out of touch with the organisation and this could impact on performance.
Regional Lockdown
A further lockdown is a very real possibility for many geographical areas. Do ensure you have a plan in place for if this were to happen locally. Now we know complete business interruption can occur, make sure the business is better prepared than all of us were in March this year. I recommend developing a business continuity plan, outlining the priorities for the business including:
  • Assessing the business (and your own) financial status
  • Communication with suppliers, clients and employees
  • Contingency plans to continue operating if the premises are forced to close
  • Identification of priority processes such payroll
  • Identify key people in the organisation and state their roles during lockdown, for example, appointing one person to be responsible for communicating with clients or suppliers.
If you don’t know where to start, please give me a call.
Mental Health
As an employer mental health should be at the forefront of your mind. With an estimated 1 in 4 people likely to experience mental health issues at some point, and an average £1,000 worth of hours lost per employee due to absence, even the smallest of organisations need to consider how they take care of their employees – both physically and mentally. Talking about and investing in mental wellbeing is the answer. Working in partnership with specialist mental health trainer, Three Eggs, I can provide support and training to assist you in developing and implementing a Well Being Policy. From training staff as Mental Health First Aiders to facilitating team assessments, I can tailor the package to suit your business needs. At this time of great uncertainty, supporting your employees’ mental wellbeing will ensure your workforce continues to support your business.
If your employees have been on furlough and have not taken any annual leave since March, it’s time to consider how to manage holiday absence moving forward. Please see my previous blog for more information. It is now time to act to ensure not all staff need to take holiday at the same time as they return from furlough. A business can enforce holiday for those who have accrued but not taken the leave as long as you give twice as much notice as the length of leave e.g. two weeks’ notice for one week’s leave. I always suggest this agreement is followed up in writing and a record retained. Remember, any annual leave taken during furlough should be topped up to 100% pay.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough Scheme)
Are all your employees back to work now, or are there still a number on furlough or flexible furlough? If your employees are on any type of furlough leave, do ensure you have an agreement in place reflecting the terms of the arrangement. Keep this agreement for at least five years. If you do not have an agreement in place, please give me a call. The BBC recently reported an individual in the West Midlands in connection with a suspected £495,000 fraud of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. I know I am always banging on about keeping records but it’s for good reason! Do ensure any claims you make are within the rules – if you’re unsure at all, please call and keep good records of payments made to employees, hours worked/furloughed and how these payments were calculated.
Opening your business safely
If the business is re-opening premises, there is a legal responsibility to protect employees and visitors on site and I’ve discussed health and safety in previous blogs. However, I do suggest regularly checking the HSE website for updated information on returning to work safely and HR advice for SMEs. I have trusted partners offering Health and Safety advice, Perspex desktop viral screens, wall-mounted and freestanding hand sanitisers, static storage and sanitising stations, social distancing signage and hospitality partition screens. Do let me know if you’d like an introduction.
Unfortunately, sometimes despite best efforts a business will need to consider reducing the workforce. There are steps to follow if this is the case, so please do call before you take any action, we can discuss the best way forward and I can guide you through the process. Lastly, I have one small favour to ask you, please do visit the website and subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date with everything that’s going on and additional HR advice for SMEs. I’d really love to connect with you on social media, so do look me up on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Stay safe! Joanne Do note that this is guidance only and should not be treated as legal advice. Always check individual contracts and if necessary, seek specific advice.

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