We need a ‘Back to Normal’ taskforce to restore normality in employment
Another week comes to an end where covid hasn’t dominated the headlines and it seems likely that no more than 5% of hospital beds are destined to accommodate a covid patient. This morning I returned to the government’s ‘working safely’ guidance, hoping to see revised content conducive with the 80% double jabbed (90% single) UK population. But no, sadly not. The web pages still contain the same reams and reams of guidance and the same thinly veiled threat to employers that if they get it wrong, there will be hell to pay.
Boosting employer and employee confidence
It’s little wonder then that nothing much is changing and many workplaces remain near-deserted. In her Daily Telegraph column this week Camilla Long criticises the voluminous and confusing government ‘working safely’ guidelines (as I have recently) and lamented that, as a result, “many companies have no clear idea what to do.” Her article calls for a ‘Back to Normal’ taskforce and I don’t think this is a bad idea. There’s no question that employers are receiving mixed messages from government, and many vaccinated employees are still perhaps over-wary of covid. As repeated (and bizarrely continuing) messages of covid infections sent millions into the safety of their houses, new information about illnesses and deaths from covid in the context of illnesses and deaths from other things may, with the right level of persistence, start to boost confidence.
Clear guidance focussed on the real risks
A taskforce could also tackle employer confidence by deleting the ‘working safely’ guidance and replacing it with pragmatic guidance based on general good practice, rather than hundreds of pages dedicated to covid. A vaccinated workforce won’t need onerous additional covid-related safety measures, but there remains an overriding duty to provide a healthy and safe working environment, and routine cleanliness and the provision of sanitiser would seem sensible precautions. I used to commute to central London and washing my hands was the first thing I would do on arrival at BT’s head office in Newgate Street – that was just a sensible precaution after an hour on public transport. Organisations might also look at 3rd party visitor protocols, but the point is that measures should be able to be caught on one clear page of guidance geared more to the unvaccinated exceptions, rather than the hundreds of pages of general advice we have now.
“We need a taskforce that can truly set us free – and finish the process that the vaccination rollout started.”
And that’s how I shall conclude this week, aligned with Camilla Long calling for a (largely non-governmental) taskforce to lead us back to normal employment. Covid remains a nasty thing, but we’ve broken the back of it, and we cannot allow ourselves to be dominated by those who pursue zero covid at all costs. There are many other nasty, and nastier things we need to be aware of too, and covid now needs to be just a consideration rather than an all-encompassing obsession. To borrow Camilla’s own words, “the last thing we need right now, having endured the biggest national crisis in peacetime – is to end up bogged down by regulatory officialdom, our initiative crushed and our normality curtailed…..we need a taskforce that can truly set us free – and finish the process that the vaccination rollout started.”
myHRdept HR support services for employers
If you need help forming your return to the office plans you might consider consulting myHRdept first. We’re working with a number of our clients on their return to office plans, and our HR support services include drafting temporary variations to allow a trial of hybrid working patterns, without being permanently committed. In many cases, this will be covered by our retained HR support services without further charge.
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