Mason Hayes & Curran: HR professionals worried over return to office

Mason Hayes & Curran: HR professionals worried over return to office

Melanie Crowley

Two-thirds of HR professionals believe that some employees will simply refuse to return to the workplace following the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey by business law firm Mason Hayes & Curran LLP suggests.

Over 200 HR professionals from both the public and private sectors were surveyed at a recent MHC webinar looking at the challenges for employers as they contemplate the return of workers to centralised offices.

Nearly three-quarters (70 per cent) of HR professionals insisted, however, that their organisation is prepared for a return to the office.

“As the results of our survey show, even if organisations are well prepared for the return of employees, there will inevitably be challenges with employees who don’t want to return, the bedding down of hybrid working practices and the fact that employers can’t ask employees whether they are vaccinated,” Melanie Crowley, head of employment law at MHC, said.

“To ensure that employees feel confident in any measures taken by organisations, it’s important that all employers are familiar with the Government’s Work Safely Protocol which sets out the minimum requirements needed in all workplaces to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

“Employers will also need to work with a Health & Safety consultant to carry out an updated risk assessment of their working practices and, more importantly, their workplaces, especially considering that many offices will have been operating at a severely reduced capacity in recent months.”

More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of those surveyed would favour an update to the Work Safely Protocol to reduce social distancing measures in the workplace from two metres to one metre.

Ger Connolly, employment law partner at MHC, said: “The reduction from two metres to one metre would certainly make it easier for employers to bring people back into offices in a more significant way, but it remains to be seen if the Government will update their protocols ahead of the larger re-opening of society on 22 October.

“In terms of measures that can be taken to make employees who are hesitant to return to the office more comfortable, 46 per cent of those surveyed stated that they were considering introducing staggered start/finish times to allow employees avoid public transport at rush hours.

“Allowing staff to stagger their start and finish times can be an effective way of allowing them to avoid crowded buses and trains at rush hour. A measure such as this may go a long way to assuaging the concerns of returning employees.”

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