On 21 February, the Prime Minister set out the government’s ‘Living with COVID’ plan which effectively brought an end to legal restrictions, instead placing the onus on the public to practice “safe and responsible behaviours.
” The changes mean people who test positive for COVID are no longer legally required to self-isolate, although self-isolation is still currently advised for at least five days and afterwards until receiving two negative test results on consecutive days. In addition, routine contact tracing has ended and workers are no longer legally obliged to tell employers when they are required to self-isolate.
On 24 March, COVID-19 adjustments to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) provisions will end. By this date businesses need to have submitted final claims for the small employer rebate scheme and SSP will no longer be payable from day one if people are unable to work because they are sick or self-isolating due to COVID.
Further changes to be introduced from 1 April will remove the health and safety requirement for employers to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments and new guidance will replace the Working Safely guidance. Employers will need to consider their specific approach to managing workplace COVID risks in light of these changes, their particular business needs and updated government guidance as it becomes available.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has said the UK business community stands by Ukraine’s side as Russia increasingly becomes an ‘economic no-go area.’
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to major economic sanctions being imposed by western governments. Alongside a need to comply with these sanctions and issues relating to corporate responsibility standards, firms are also acutely aware of the potential risk to their reputations if they continue business as usual in Russia. In combination, this has led to a plethora of corporations ceasing to trade or pulling back from investing in Russia.
The growing list of well-known brands to scale back or cut ties with the country includes Apple, Disney, BP, Ikea, McDonald’s, Google, Unilever, Visa and Mastercard.
Commenting on the crisis, CBI Director General Tony Danker, said, “The actions of this Russian government are making their country an economic no-go area. Sanctions have been a successful start to global efforts to isolate the Putin regime, but the next phase will require global economies, including Britain, to be economically resilient to further threats. We need to start bolstering the UK’s future economic resilience, from our supply chains and energy sources to our cyber security.”
The latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer shows confidence among UK companies is currently running at a five-month high.
Data from February’s survey reported overall business confidence at +44%, a five-point increase from the previous month and the highest figure since last September. The surge in confidence has been driven by improvements in both firms’ trading prospects and their economic optimism.
Paul Gordon, the bank’s Managing Director for SME and Mid Corporates, said, “Ten out of the 12 regions reported a growth in confidence, indicating that businesses are looking forward with renewed optimism. The UK’s construction and manufacturing sectors have seen the biggest benefit as COVID-19 restrictions and supply challenges ease, while the retail sector has also seen a boost in confidence. What is clear is that business confidence is on an upward trajectory.”
Another survey released last month suggests UK SMEs are set to bolster employee numbers following a promising start to 2022. According to data from the latest quarterly Barclaycard Payments SME Barometer, two out of five businesses plan to hire, on average, six new employees before the end of March, while almost six in ten are predicting an increase in revenue this quarter compared to the same period last year.
A new survey has found that learning and development remains a key priority for UK businesses looking
to retain staff in today’s ultracompetitive labour market.
Research conducted for the latest Global Hiring Trends Report produced by HireVue sought to ascertain how organisations are finding, hiring and keeping talented workers. Its findings suggest companies are increasingly focusing on retention strategies in order to avoid losing their best employees.
For instance, almost half of the 300+ UK-based hiring leaders surveyed for the study said their firms had invested in learning and development during 2021 in a bid to retain staff, while just over half had prioritised internal promotions to demonstrate a strong commitment to their workforce. Other commonly utilised incentives designed to keep workers happy included increased compensation, which nearly two in five businesses invested in, and employee culture events, deemed to be a priority by over a quarter of surveyed firms.
Commenting on the findings, Darren Jaffrey, General Manager at HireVue, said, “Resilience is key for businesses right now. The Great Resignation kickstarted the need for not only better hiring processes but also workplace cultures that advocate employee happiness.”
CBI CALLS FOR ACTION
The CBI has called on the Chancellor to provide a clear signal that the government’s
ambition will be matched by action when he delivers his Spring Forecast Statement on 23 March. CBI Director General Tony Danker said, “That is the time to act if we want to push the economy onto a higher growth trajectory. Without serious action, we risk the economy simply drifting towards low growth.”
BUSINESSES ISSUE COVID TEST WARNING
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned that the cost and responsibility for COVID testing must not be put on employers. Responding to the government’s ‘Living with COVID’ plan and the decision to end
free mass testing from 1 April, BCC Co-Executive Director Claire Walker said, “Government must not pass public health decisions on to the business community. Members continue to tell us that access to free testing is key to managing workplace sickness and maintaining consumer confidence.”
MOST SOUGHT AFTER ROLES
Analysis by Adzuna suggests the UK’s most sought-after jobs are roles where workers are doing what they love or giving back to the community. Animal jobs were found to be particularly popular, with ‘Pet Sitter’ the most clicked jobs ad; trade training positions and front-line healthcare jobs also ranked high on the list of sought-after roles.
Greater support for working women looks set to become an increasingly key business issue after research found over a million women could quit their jobs due to a lack of menopause support from employers.
The survey of 2,000 women experiencing menopause symptoms shows a lack of support is having a direct impact on their decisions to leave the workplace. In total, around a quarter of respondents said they
were unhappy in their jobs because of a lack of support, while nearly two-thirds noted their employer had no policies in place to make things easier for anyone experiencing menopause symptoms.
Sally Campbell, Head of Clinical Development at corporate healthcare specialists Healix, commented, “Recent headlines about women leaving the workforce because of insufficient support during menopause, highlights the need for female specific healthcare provisions. Women make up half the workforce, so it is imperative that workplaces offer comprehensive services tailored to them.”
New analysis published by the TUC has also once again highlighted issues surrounding pay inequality. The data shows a gender pay gap for all employees of 15.4%; this means the average woman effectively works for free for nearly two months of the year compared to the average man.
Research suggests employers feel a greater responsibility for supporting their employees’ wellbeing as a result of the pandemic.
This finding was based on a survey of 501 HR decision-makers commissioned by GriD in January, with the data highlighting a strong sense of responsibility across all four key areas of wellbeing:
59% of employers said they felt an increased responsibility for supporting the mental wellbeing of staff felt increased responsibility for the financial wellbeing of staff
57% felt increased responsibility for employees’ social wellbeing
56% felt the same increased responsibility for physical wellbeing
50% felt increased responsibility for the financial wellbeing of staf
The survey also found a significant proportion of firms are taking steps to demonstrate this commitment. For example, four out of ten employers had increased communication about support available to staff, while just over a third had encouraged engagement and utilisation of support.
Other GriD research shows employees are not only in need of, but increasingly expect, support. A survey of 1,212 workers also undertaken in January found that almost four in ten felt their mental health had deteriorated due to the pandemic, while over a quarter noted a deterioration in their physical health and a similar proportion had concerns about financial health. Furthermore, four in ten said they expect more support from employers to help them cope.
GRiD spokesperson Katharine Moxham commented, “Employees feel most vulnerable in terms of their mental wellbeing and employers have rightly assessed this as an area in which they can take more responsibility. However, employers should be wary of solely prioritising one area. Mental, physical, social and financial wellbeing are inextricably linked and so employers must address all four areas when providing post-pandemic support for staff.”
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