HR 11 January 2021

What HR lessons did businesses learn in 2020?

Chris Boyle from Napthens

Chris Boyle - Head of Employment and HR at Napthens
“The primary challenges to come are not legal ones, but rather in leadership and management.”

Name: Chris Boyle

Job title: Head of Employment and HR at Napthens

Bio: Chris is head of Napthens’ employment & HR team and acts for businesses dealing with general HR advice and Employment Tribunal claims including unfair dismissal, discrimination, TUPE and breach of contract. He also deals with commercial agents’ disputes and High Court breach of contract claims, as well as acting for employees and senior executives in Employment Tribunals and the High Court.

With a wealth of experience in advising a wide range of clients, Chris plays a key role on Napthens’ Executive Board as Head of Clients.

How well did businesses navigate the furlough fiasco?

When furlough was first introduced, its workings raised more questions than most people had answers for. In a very short frame of time, HR teams and business owners had to interpret new guidance that was continually changing, and in hindsight most have done a good job with that.

“Many law firms, ACAS, chambers of commerce and other organisations stepped up to provide free resources and online webinars to keep businesses up to date on the rules, which undoubtedly will have helped. This has certainly brought the HR community together and it was good to see everyone helping each other out.”

Success of the furlough scheme is clear to see, as many companies have been able to mitigate damage of closing their businesses or losing trade as a result of Covid. This has bought time, with flexible furlough allowing organisations to pivot and manoeuvre their way through the economic uncertainty.

Furlough did of course come with its challenges, as gaps in guidance, such as holiday pay, led to confusion. Employers themselves also ran into difficulties when it came to the choice of furloughing part of the work force and not others. That has created long-term management challenges for some, as when an employer may have to make redundancies those on furlough are usually selected, which may be unfair.”

What should businesses be doing to ensure they continue to work within legal HR structures when their workforce remains remote?

To remain compliant with legal structures, employers should largely act as they do when employees are in the workplace, save for carrying out a risk assessment on staff working from home. However, the primary challenges to come are not legal ones, but rather in leadership and management.

Business leaders are still getting to grips with a different way of managing and communicating with employees. The failure to adequately do so may result in disenchanted or disillusioned employees, or poor mental health.

Not dealing with these kinds of problems may predicate new issues and lead to potential claims later down the line, so it is important to ensure employee needs are understood and addressed early, with regular communication the key.

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