The road to a return to work unlikely to be smooth

With the UK less than three weeks always from the second easing in lockdown restrictions many firms are looking at how they can manage a return to work.

With the plan for all restrictions to be lifted by late June many in the City are plotting a return to what will be the new normal in September, believing that there is little benefit in fully opening the doors for a few weeks before the annual summer break.

However, the task facing firms has been clearly illustrated in the past week. On the positive side 27 insurance companies have signed up to the flexible working charter which will look to deliver flexibility for staff. They have pledged to allow all roles within the respective firms to be carried out with a greater degree of flexibility in the hope that it will make insurance a more attractive career to pursue.

While all roles have been forced to be moved to a remote way of working for the past 15 months there are clearly some that need to be carried out face to face. Brokers have been bemoaning the lack of access to brokers in a tough market, and the inability to access new business from home.

The Flexibility Charter is also designed to increase the ability for greater diversity in the industry and the number of signatories highlights how high diversity and inclusion is on the corporate agenda.

However, this week has also made it increasingly clear that firms, and their HR departments will have their hands full in the weeks to come.

One survey of UK workers by a HR consultancy found that 35% of staff say they will refuse to work in the same office as a colleague that has refused to be vaccinated.

In recent months lawyers and insurers have been fielding calls from concerned clients over just how far they can push when it comes to asking staff to return to the workplace.

As much as the efforts to sanitise their workspace have been put into place, there are many staff who are more concerned over the safety of the public transport they use to travel to and from work.

For some after a year working in splendid isolation the fear, having had the first if not the second vaccine shot, is not physical.

Some are scared of their ability to slip back into the social interaction that is part and parcel of workplace life. Psychologists say that there are rising numbers of staff who are simply nervous having to pick up the reins of socialising with colleagues and meeting face to face with management in the weeks and months to come.

It is likely that the coming months will see a rise in the number of employment disputes as employers suddenly find that staff are more then happy to remain working from home. It will create not only a challenge for insurers and brokers as they manage their own staff but it will also create a new coverage demand that, absent legal precedent, is highly unlikely to become readily available.

Flexibility may well be the watchword for some time to come.

Jon Guy

Editor, Emerging Risks

One survey of UK workers by a HR consultancy found that 35% of staff say they will refuse to work in the same office as a colleague that has refused to be vaccinated.

SHARE: