We were joined by our Head of HR Sue Holmes and Director of Just Employment Law David Reid, who explored the key issues employers may encounter and how to put together an effective agile working strategy.
David covered four points employers should consider in the face of post pandemic working:
*all poll results were taken from HR Connect session 1 attendees
At Premier, throughout the pandemic many employees have adapted to remote working, and we haven’t had a drop in employee engagement.
When creating a post-pandemic agile working policy, we formed an agile working group. This included employees across all departments, who helped us shape our future of agile working. They helped us with ideas on a new office layout, to the work from home/office balance. Please note that this should remain flexible and adaptable, as unfortunately we’re unsure of what the next few months will bring.
Once the policy has been created, you should think about distributing a ‘return-to-work checklist’ to all employees.
This poll response is completely normal – no one is sure what the next few months will bring so no one will feel fully ready.
All managers at Premier have received mental health and wellbeing training, so are equipped to deal with any employee concerns, which especially may arise when discussions take place about returning to the office. They have also received employment law training on agile working.
We created a ‘home working guide’ at the start of the pandemic. This interactive guide included videos, polls, health and safety information and the latest Government guidelines. This will be transformed into our ‘Agile working guide’ from September.
All Premier employees have access to an online training platform, therefore the onboarding process for new starters hasn’t been compromised.
We have continued to run social events (albeit remotely) throughout the pandemic. Once a week all employees are invited to come together to participate in quizzes, competitions and even a spot of virtual yoga!
During the session we delved into several case studies such as; what to do if an employee requests to continue to work remotely due to living with a vulnerable person, how to deal with employees refusing to work with unvaccinated staff, and what to do if an employee has requested a pay rise due to new travel costs.
Is it reasonable to ask an employee for their vaccination records?
The answer is generally no. David explained that this is not a reasonable request, and on no legal basis this information can be shared with other employees.
What can line managers do if employees are reluctant to come back to the office?
We would suggest a sympathetic approach, make sure to discuss with the employee what their concerns are and if you can assist with any of these. If the nature of the concerns are medical, it’s a good idea to get professional support, e.g. a GP report.
However, if the appropriate risk assessments have been carried out in the office with no concerns raised, then it’s not unreasonable to ask employees back to the office.
Can agile working arrangements be withdrawn at any time?
As an employer, you retain the right to ask employees back to the office for a particular reason. However, it would be a good idea to write this into a policy.