In the last 18 months the hospitality industry has experienced a myriad of closures and re-openings leaving businesses in the lurch. Making it a hard time to run a business.
Since the 5th of November 2020, the doors of pubs and restaurants have remained shut, but we’re finally at the light at the end of the tunnel. The prime minister announced recently that hospitality venues could re-open if they have an adequate outdoor area, and then on the 17th of May, they opened indoors, which for many UK venues is vital.
The build-up to this event has to be strategically planned and everything must be in place before customers flood back in. The first hurdle, however, is returning all of the employees that were placed on furlough for extended periods of time. Many have been getting paid while being at home, and their return may come with some hesitation.
In addition to this, hospitality employees have been on furlough for six months, and routines have been formed. Often with dependencies such as childcare, or pet care, which could make the return-to-work process more difficult. Employers must consider this when approaching their staff and understand what they can do to accommodate these changes. There are a few things employers can do to make the transition easier.
These include, considering a more flexible working routine, Communicate with your staff and work together to find a solution, and discussing what shift pattern would benefit your staff, and co-ordinate this with the rest of the team to complete the rota.
Your move, employer
To open for business, the hospitality sector must get staff back to work. They are a vital component in order to start producing revenue which has been lost in the last 6 months. The first step in bringing staff back, is to understand their situation, and take any steps you can to aid the return-to-work process. Employers would benefit from communicating their plans to re-open to their staff and giving employees as much notice as possible, allowing them time to organise plans for childcare, or other responsibilities.
One route for employers returning staff from furlough would be to have an individual return-to-work meetings to address and concerns in private and work out the best strategy to move forward. Businesses would benefit from having two-way conversations; enabling employees to address any concerns which you can work to solve. This could mean re-addressing old contracts that may have become out-dated due to the pandemic and include new clauses that are more relevant to the current circumstances.
In the worst-case scenario, where employees refuse to return to work, consult their employment contract to understand what power you have in this instance. If unsure, seek legal advice to understand specific contractual issues.
Covid-19 is a threat to employee’s health, and it could be a cause for concern for staff. Employers can address this by communicating the efforts they have made to protect staff. Being communicative, and adaptable would ease anxiety issues and help them return to work more easily.
Furlough and the pandemic are unprecedented circumstances. It is important to be flexible, and dynamic to the changing situation and understanding how you can ensure a smooth transition for re-opening in such a complicated time. If businesses are struggling with these new changes, they can seek legal advice from an employment law specialist to clarify how to move forward.