The Mitigation Phase?
23 September 2020
Cast your mind back six months – and what seems to many of us like a lifetime ago – and you may remember that the UK government’s stated approach to COVID-19 was originally broken into four headings:
So given the resurgence of the virus, and the Prime Minister’s address to the nation yesterday, does the above approach still apply? And if so, where is the nation currently positioned as we head towards a period of new restrictions?
Where are we now?
Well certainly the Contain and Delay stages of the government’s plan have long since passed.
Some might argue that the nation remains at the “Research” stage of the plan, because although scientists now know so much more about the virus, as yet a working vaccine available to the masses still seems many months from fruition. But in reality much of the initial research is long-since concluded, and it’s really a question of delivering against the known facts of COVID-19 now.
Which probably means that we have now reached the last stage in that original plan, the need to live with the virus whilst mitigating the worst of its impacts on our daily life, work, and the British economy.
And indeed the latest restrictions – which are expected to be with the nation until at least the Spring of 2021 – appear to reflect that approach also. Rather than another hard shutdown of the entire economy, the approach is to try and allow everyday life to continue, albeit in a very truncated and Covid-secure way.
Some employer tips for mitigation
And part of that approach is to ask many office-based employees to return to home working where possible.
Of course many such workers have never actually achieved a return to the office after the initial lockdown anyway, but there will be at least a few employers who will once again have to rearrange their working practices to comply with this latest guidance. And this time it will be with the knowledge that the duration of the change is likely to last for at least another six months.
So it seems like a good time for Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing to revisit some of the advice that we published in our press releases during the early stages of the pandemic. And, in keeping with the format we used for those press releases, let’s keep things simple with just three important tips for employers:
1) Maintain and expand Employee Benefits provision
Many typical Employee Benefits are specifically designed to provide valuable protection to employees and their families at times of hardship. And, as we explored in this earlier post, some have already delivered on that commitment very well in the most extreme of situations.
So it follows that employers should maintain their existing Employee Benefits offerings during these difficult times to support their workers. Indeed, and as we previously suggested, the case could also be made to expand the cover to new employee groupings too.
2) Communicate what’s on offer
Having a robust benefits offering is only part of the challenge. It’s also absolutely vital that employees know what is on offer, and importantly how to access and utilise such tools when they are remote from their office location and workplace support network. So take the time to communicate the benefits that are in place to ensure usage as and when each element is needed.
3) Remember the impact on household budgets
Lastly, whilst so many organisations have been able to protect jobs and their employee’s salaries during this incredibly difficult period, it remains the case that many household budgets will be under a continued strain in the months ahead through a reduction in wider household incomes and/or reduced performance and sales related bonus payments.
Financial stress can lead to emotional, mental, and by extension physical health issues too, and can really impact performance at a time when every employer needs to see maximum productivity from each and every worker.
So ensure that tools such as Financial Education sessions, Employee Assistance Plans, Workplace Finance offerings, discount schemes, and advice on how to manage debt are regularly communicated to workers wherever possible.
The three tips above should help employers maintain a support structure for workers during this continued period of remote working, and that can only be a good thing as we start the long-haul towards a return to normality – and economic recovery – in Spring 2021.
For more information on any of the above topics, please speak to your usual Howden Consultant in the first instance, or visit our website for other contact options. For the latest details on COVID-19 & Employee Benefits provision please visit our coronavirus hub.
Steve is Head of Benefits Strategy, Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, and is an award-winning thought leader on Pensions, Employee Benefits, and Human Resources issues. He is occasionally accused of making Employee Benefits interesting.