Brian Hall stressed the importance of employers providing increasing levels of support for their staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

The BHSF’s chief commercial officer was speaking in light of a survey conducted by the Reward & Employee Benefits Association (REBA). This survey provided initial insights into the decisions being taken by UK businesses in the face of the economic impact of Covid-19.

The survey had responses from 111 businesses, representing an estimated 750,000 workers. Its key finding was that businesses were reluctant to offer voluntary redundancies as a way of cost-cutting (just 6.25 per cent), with training courses being deferred instead (56.25 per cent).

Hall said: “That is certainly some positive news amid all this uncertainty. It’s heartening to read that most employers are fighting hard to keep their staff, but in reality a lot of them are going to need government help to do that.

“The government is relying on a lot of goodwill from people to stay at home and stay isolated but as soon as this crisis passes that goodwill is going to be needed by employers as they try and put their businesses back on track. They will be asking their employees to dig deep, and to maybe work more in the evenings or at weekends. But they also need to ensure their employees are fit and safe to return to work.”

While most employers (59 per cent) have made no changes to contracts, one in three employers plan to do so. However, the survey closed before the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced on 20 March a support package for businesses. REBA will conduct a second survey in the coming weeks to assess the impact of this package.

Hall added: “Before the furlough agreement, employees would have been very worried about how they were going to make ends meet. But even since the survey’s findings, companies are still very worried about cash flow because wages still need to be paid.

“Many employers will desperately need bank support to help get them through this period because a lot of companies won’t have those kind of reserves in their accounts.”

With schools around the country now closed, many parents have become de facto teachers while trying to balance their own workload from home.

Hall said: “This has arrived onto people without any warning really. Parents had no say in becoming teachers, and, for a lot of people, this is a whole new set of things to cope with and that can create anxiety.

“As an employer, when your staff are now having to balance work with childcare and teaching, you have to react to that. But, clearly, no-one has any experience of how to deal with this unprecedented situation, so we’ve all got to work together on this one.

“Communication is crucial at a time like this. With so many employees working from home, clear and helpful communication from the employer is really important, as is encouraging communication among staff.

“Employers have got to work harder for their employees right now. It’s not just about keeping their jobs open, it’s about supporting them.”

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