Related posts:No related photos. DVLA red tape puts brake on bus drivers’ chancesOn 5 Jun 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Oxford Bus Company was unable to employ two asylum-seekers because of thered tape specified by the DVLA to grant driving licences. The asylum-seekers, who were eligible to work, completed the selectionprocess to become bus drivers, but were refused the provisional PCV licencethat would have enabled the company to train them. Louisa Weeks, personnel manager of Oxford Bus Company, said, “Thesedrivers would have been perfectly suitable for the job. We invested a lot oftime in these asylum-seekers through the interview process and driverassessment. It was a time-consuming process.” The DVLA turned down the asylum-seekers’ applications for PCV licencesbecause they could not provide a passport or birth certificate. Theasylum-seekers – one from Albania, the other from Africa – only had documentsprovided by the Immigration Department, which state that the holder is theperson they claim to be. The Oxford Bus Company is facing a severe shortage of drivers, asOxfordshire has only 1 per cent unemployment – one of the lowest rates in thecountry. Weeks said, “We will need 20 bus drivers to get through the summerseason. This is a classic example of the red tape that is stopping people whoare keen to contribute in an area of staff shortages from getting a job.” The DVLA told Personnel Today that an applicant needs a passport, birthcertificate or Home Office travel document to get a PCV licence, but welcomedthe applicants to write and state their case. Weeks has advised the asylum-seekers to question the DVLA’s decision. By Karen Higginbottom Feedback from the professionPersonnel Today asked: Would being able to readily employ asylum-seekers bea benefit to your organisation? Des Pullen, HR director, Allied Bakeries “We have some sites in the country that have particular recruitmentissues. We have a number of asylum-seekers who have come seeking work and we’vehad to turn them down. It’s frustrating. We’d like them to work for us.” FrancescaOkosi, HR director, London Borough of Brent “Asylum-seekers have a genuine right to work, and come to this countrywith all sorts of experience. It’s far better that they are in meaningfulemployment than relying on the state. If they’ve got the skills, we shouldemploy them. Central government should use the information that it has onasylum-seekers and refugees to build up a skills database. If we had a databaseon their skills, it would be very foolish to ignore them.” PeterDeer, director of personnel, Cambridge University “It could be a benefit to the IT, finance and professional skills sideof the university. They can be used to help meet the skills shortage, but thiswould need to be done in an orderly fashion, and each claim should bethoroughly checked.” CarmenBurton, HR executive manager for Norton Practice “Unless asylum-seekers have the qualifications, employing them wouldn’tmake any difference to us. Obviously there are some language issues, but if theskill was there, that would be great. Whether the business would take on theadditional training of someone who couldn’t speak English very well would bedebatable.” RayBaker, sustainable development controller, B&Q “I think that as a business you should take every opportunity torecruit people who are right for the business as long as they have the legalright to work in the UK.” Sally Storey, president, health HR group AHHRM “It is my understanding that there is a large pool of qualified doctorsand nurses among asylum-seekers – in my opinion it is a wasted pool oftalent.” AmandaRavey, HR director, Whitbread Hotels “The bigger the pool of talent, the more benefit it would be toemployers.”
UK employers must inspire staff to encourage progressOn 30 Oct 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Toomany UK employers don’t inspire their workforce or encourage the development ofnew ideas among staff.Researchconducted among 300 members of staff and 200 employers concludes that companyculture and attitudes in the UK inhibit the development of new ideas andentrepreneurship.Thestudy finds that more than nine out of 10 office workers feel uninspired bytheir employers.Nearlyhalf of office workers think ideas from outside the boardroom are not given anyweight and a third believe someone else will take the credit for their idea ifit is implemented.Thestudy by Office Angels shows three out of 10 employees feel inhibited aboutmentioning new ideas because they are scared of sounding stupid or generallyfeel intimidated by senior staff.Incontrast, more than 90 per cent of employers say they are open to businessimprovement suggestions and would think favourably of employees who speak upand offer ideas. However,two-thirds of employers admit they could make it easier for employees toapproach them with ideas and implement methods to encourage and reward thosewho do so.PaulJacobs, director of corporate development at Office Angels, commented,”Businesses potentially hold the answer to their own growth and successwithin their own ranks. “Employersshould consider ways of creating a forum for bright ideas to be aired, byadopting an ‘open door’ culture and encouraging the flow of information andinitiatives from the bottom and up through the ranks.” Thesurvey finds that more than two-thirds of staff believe that a “closeddoor” approach to sharing ideas can lower office morale, making staff lesscommitted to their employer. Jacobsadded, “Enabling staff to share their ideas makes them feel part of thebigger picture, ultimately making them more motivated and loyal to thebusiness.” Morethan half of those surveyed admit they would not think twice about taking their”entrepreneurial spirit” to a company that would allow them to getmore involved in the direction of the business.ByBen Willmott Related posts:No related photos.
Comments are closed. Best practice: Flexible cultureOn 6 Nov 2001 in Personnel Today Previous Article Next Article PersonnelToday’s monthly series reveals how managers deal with business problems toenhance performance. In this issue, Mike Eadie, co-managing director oftop-banana global, explains the benefits of flexi-culture in managing adisparate workforceTop-banana global is a leading organisation of human performanceconsultants. It delivers innovative solutions to a wide range of blue-chipclients throughout the UK. While its site-based team is small, comprising only nine people, the organisationfunctions using a team of management, training and HR consultants based indifferent locations throughout the UK and Europe. With such a substantialdistribution of resource, top-banana faces many of the same complex culturalissues that challenge much larger companies. The company is young, only two years old, but it has grown from three peopleto 300 in that time. The management decided from the outset that it wanted thebusiness to grow fast and getting the right culture was key. It was a rare opportunity to conceptualise and develop a distinctive modernculture, without first having to modify an existing one. Top-banana wanted a culture that was not only flexible internally, but thatcould be flexible with its clients as well. This strategy came from experience of other consultancies that imposeparticular models of practice on to their staff and clients. So the company knew what it didn’t want to be, the question was how tocreate the culture that it did want? How we implemented the solution In practical terms, a flexi-culture means top-banana can both work with itsclients in a non-prescriptive way, and also draw on the resource of itsconsultants to find the best ways of working. As a company, top-banana is notdriven by methods and processes, but by the need to deliver the best solutionsfor individual cases. For the consultants, this means regular meetings with top-banana to form theright strategy for each client. Consultants are encouraged to put forward theirideas. When top-banana is discussing a new client, it makes a concerted effortto ensure that it does not impose a strategy on the consultants who will bedoing the work. The most important function of meetings is to ask the opinion of theconsultants, finding out how they think a problem should be tackled and worktogether to find the solution. Crucial to the company’s philosophy is that there is no failure – onlyfeedback. Everyone will make a mistake at some point in his or her career, buttop-banana does not see this as a cause for negativity. All employees, be theyfull time staff or consultants, know that they can work confidently. Ifsomething doesn’t go as they first planned, they will receive the constructivefeedback they need to help them and improve the situation. This means that employees also have the confidence to ask for help, becausethey know it is not seen as a reflection of their ability to do the job. Most of the consultants meet at top-banana two or three times a week. For anew project, the consultants are involved from a very early stage. First, they are invited in to discuss the project. Following this, theconsultants are then able to review the material that is being proposed for theclient. This process ensures that they really understand the client’s needs andthat they are working as a seamless team when they go out to meet the client. Even though most of the staff are not full-time employees, there are regularperformance reviews. These are very open, flexible occasions with a powerfulcoaching element to close any knowledge gaps. The performance reviews are alsoa time to anchor the things that are going really well. Communication has, for obvious reasons, developed as a key part of thecultural strategy. Associate days are a great opportunity for sharing ideas,and part of the day is set aside for networking. After every meeting, the attendants’ details are shared with each other sothey can communicate outside the meetings and help each other with professionalqueries. Positive outcomes for the business Top-banana has grown 264 per cent in the last year. The established culture,although always being reviewed and updated, has gained the company a reputationas a “chameleon” within the industry, because of its ability to mergeseamlessly with the culture of each company it visits. The flexible approach has definitely worked in establishing good workingrelationships with consultants. Each consultant is recognised as an individual with individual needs andconcerns. For example, if there are a number of people working on a team, one mightprefer to be left alone to work self sufficiently, whereas somebody else mightwork better with contact from top-banana every few days. The company tries to meet these needs, giving a free hand to those who wantit, but establishing regular contact with those who work best with moresupport. As a human performance consultancy, top-banana is naturally concerned withthe human behavioural aspect of how its consultants perform. In business terms, that has been what has created the success of thecompany, but it is also the backbone of ensuring top-banana employees arefulfilling their potential and feel completely supported in their work. The Best Practice ClubThe best professional network youwill ever join.The Best Practice Club is a professional knowledge network,pooling the ideas and advice gleaned from a diverse and global membership whichspans manufacturing and service industries as well as the public and private sectors.Through a combination of education and shared experience, members are able toidentify and adopt best business practices.For a full information pack, contact 0800 435399 or visit www.bpclub.comBenefits of flexi-culture in managing a workforce– Theculture is created by the people in the company, specifically those atmanagement level– Coach people at the top, as what people see as behaviourfrom key people on a daily basisaffects the whole company culture – Everybody in the company needs to be committed to developinga flexible approach– Don’t blame the working environment. Cultures don’t justhappen; people make the culture, rarely the environment they work in Related posts:No related photos.
Peugeot drives online trainingOn 7 May 2002 in Personnel Today Peugeot is to halve the number of days new staff spend in residentialtraining during the company’s sales induction course through the introductionof e-learning. From September, staff will be able to complete some training modules online,enabling the car giant to cut the residential element of its sales inductioncourse from two weeks to one. The eight online modules, including customer retention, telephone skills andmotor trade law, take less than an hour to complete and include an online testthat the employee must pass before progressing to residential-based role-playtraining. The £150,000 move to e-learning will also allow the company to schedule morecourses and reduce the number of staff on each course. David Davies, sales and training manager at Peugeot, said that theorganisation will be providing dealers with support to deal with their newpeople development responsibilities. He said: “Our biggest challenge is to get dealers on board. It will bestrange for them that we (the training department) will not be directlyproviding all the training or are not as heavily involved in upfront trainingas we have been. “It is a big change of emphasis for them to have to manage staffdevelopment, provide the facilities and the time for staff to learn.” Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos.
Dress codes under scrutiny after Jobcentre man victoryOn 1 Apr 2003 in Personnel Today Employers should review their dress codes to ensure they are even-handed,following the victory of a Jobcentre employee who won the right not to have towear a tie to work. An employment tribunal ruled last month that Mark Thompson had beendiscriminated against by his employer because he was forced to wear a shirt andtie for work, while female staff were allowed to wear more casual attire, suchas t-shirts. Lawyers said although the case did not establish any firm precedents, itdoes illustrate the need to apply dress codes so they do not discriminateagainst either sex. “Differences between the sexes on individual items of a dress code willnot, in themselves, be discriminatory,” said Kerstie Steaping,discrimination solicitor at Addleshaw Booth. “Employers should look at theoverall effect of the dress code – consider whether it has a greater or lessfavourable impact on one group of employees.” Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed.
Related posts:No related photos. Sue Mackness has joined Adams Childrenswear as the new HR director.Employing more than 4,000 full- and part-time staff, the company has 520outlets in the UK and 71 around the world. Mackness joins the store from theArcadia Group, where she worked as retail HR manager for Top Shop, Top Man andMiss Selfridge. She will lead the retail team to implement the HR strategy anddeliver business goals. What do you hope to achieve in your new role? I hope to continue the fantastic work which has been done to make Adams atruly fun place to work. What are you most looking forward to? I am looking forward to supporting Adams in achieving its vision of movingfrom a single format retailer to a multi channel business. How do you think the role of HR will change in the next five years? With the ever-increasing complexity of employment legislation, HR teams willhave the opportunity to truly act as business partners in delivering change. What is your essential viewing? Sex and the City – I can dream that my life is half as glamorous. What’s the best thing about HR? Being able to facilitate change and watch people grow as part of theprocess. And the worst? People not understanding the true value that HR can bring to the businessand attaching old-fashioned assumptions to the role. How do you fill your spare time? I enjoy sailing and international travel. What advice would you give to people starting out in HR? Get to know the business you work in and how it operates from outside of theHR viewpoint. Network with key players within the business and understand theirpriorities. Do you network? Like most people, not as much as I should. Who would play you in a film of your life? Sarah Jessica Parker – I think she is really sassy. Mackness’ cv2003 Director of HR, AdamsChildrenswear1999 Retail HR manager, Top Shop, TopMan and Miss Selfridge1991 Personnel manager, Marks & Spencer1984 Commercial manager, Marks & Spencer Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. Top job: Sue Mackness, HR director, Adams ChildrenswearOn 13 May 2003 in Personnel Today
Previous Article Next Article LettersOn 7 Oct 2003 in Military, Personnel Today Related posts: This week’s letterCBI selective when it comes to the ‘flexible’ UK economyIt seems that even the CBI is willing to selectively use statistics tobolster its claim that a flexible labour market can be directly linked to lowunemployment levels. In particular, its claim that the UK has the lowest unemployment in the EUis patently untrue. While it is true that France and Germany have significantly higherunemployment rates than the UK, the latest OECD figures show that Austria,Ireland, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands all have lower unemployment rates. Moreover, in Sweden and Denmark – countries that most people would consideroffer a very high level of social security – the unemployment rate is onlymarginally higher than the UK. The reality is that there is no discernablepattern. It is also interesting that more than half of the EU countries have lowerunemployment than the US, which both Labour and Conservative politicianspromote as an exemplar of a flexible labour market. While flexibility may wellhave a part to play in providing employment to a low-skilled workforce, this isno basis on which the UK can compete with low-wage economies such as China. If the CBI considers flexibility as “a jewel in the crown of the UKeconomy”, one must only assume that it considers everything else as beingmere cut glass. Graham Evans Details suppliedDoctor’s letter gave me good belly laugh Having just about stopped laughing after reading Dr Phil Peverley’s letter(News, 2 September) regarding sick notes, I would just like to say how verytrue to real working life this is. I am the MD of two businesses within the printing industry and my associatesand I are constantly battling against absenteeism due to supposed illness. Wehave a number of employees who continually flout the sicknote scheme, andunless you come straight out and accuse them of lying, there is nothing you cando. And if you did accuse them of lying, you would probably be stuck with aconstructive dismissal charge. Here’s an example of a recent situation concerning one employee. The employee had been off work for two weeks and had made no phone calls orany other attempt to contact the company to explain his absence. When he didcontact us, he said he had had enteritis, which two days later had turned intofood poisoning. Two days after that he had two wisdom teeth extracted. Anothertwo days later, his fifth grandma died. Then he developed a mouth infectionfrom the teeth extraction and now had lockjaw. When he returned to work last Monday, lo and behold, he had backdated sicknotes covering everything. We tried to approach his GP, but of course all theinformation is confidential. Never was an article so true to life. David C Tye Managing director, Nottingham Print Finishers Take steps to avert the impending crisis It is gratifying to see, at long last, that business is beginning torecognise the critical role played by people in securing success. With disciplines like human capital management, HR professionals aredemonstrating to the board how strategic management of ‘soft’ people issues canlead to hard performance gains. Retention and succession planning are key elements of any people managementstrategy. But how many companies are acting to capture and retain the knowledgethat resides within their employees’ heads, and in their employees’ informalwork networks? And how many have even determined how much of that knowledge isrelevant and useful? With the Baby Boomer generation nearing retirement, this is becoming acritical issue. For some sectors the day of reckoning is uncomfortably close.Energy is just one example. Here, according to the Society for PetroleumEngineers, 44 per cent of the industry’s experienced knowledge base is due toretire by 2010. Each individual who walks out the door represents the loss of decades ofaccumulated experience and expertise. Enterprises do not think twice aboutsecuring, and insuring, the value of easily replaceable physical assets such asvehicles and computers. Yet they adopt an entirely different attitude when itcomes to the real source of value in the business – knowledge. Clearly, this cannot continue. Businesses need to act, and they need to actnow, if they are to avert the coming crisis. HR professionals can play a critical role in preparing enterprise for futureknowledge deficits, and they can do this by factoring knowledge successionplanning into their wider strategies for attracting, retaining and replacingtalent. The good news is that the rewards of such an integrated approach can beharvested now, and not just in the future. Building knowledge management intopeople management strategy will yield benefits today, in terms of increasedbusiness agility and competitiveness. And, for HR professionals, adopting this integrated approach will supportthem in their ongoing campaign to become a partner to the business. Dorothy Leonard The William J Abernathy Professor of Business Administration, Harvard BusinessSchool Journalists are not always out to get you Your feature on how to handle a TV interview (23 September) was timely. Thefallout from Enron and WorldCom, from Higgs and now the Hutton inquiry, meanthat the national media is interested as never before in how organisations arerun and how they treat their people. However, this is not necessarily bad news for HR and it is a shame thefeature focused on how frightening facing the camera can be. Actually, for theHR community this is a wonderful opportunity to find its voice at last, and tobe listened to attentively. Journalists are not always intent on tripping you up. Most of the time, theyare simply trying to get to the facts, spot the trends, present some compellinghuman interest stories – all of which HR professionals can help with, while atthe same time grabbing the chance to spread the good news about theirorganisation’s policies and practices. Colette Hill Managing director, Colette Hill Associates Sexism in the police force is no surprise Your article ‘Watchdog warns police over sexism’ (News, 23 September)explains that the Police Complaints Authority has criticised lenient punishmentfor sexist officers who escape with a fine rather than dismissal. Well surprise, surprise. In the private sector, it is common for those withrare, expensive skills to exploit the organisations’ reluctance to let them go.Everyone knows of situations where Teflon-coated spin doctors can breakrules, behave incompetently, and push sexism boundaries in the workplace withcomplete impunity. Need to replace a cleaner? Easy. They will probably behaveand call you ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’. But if you need another radar computerprogrammer, it is probably easier to smooth the waters over than find areplacement. Where unscrupulous individuals want to play havoc, the organisation suffersin the long run, through inefficiency, bad press and stress. The high cost of putting an officer on the street will always mean thatinspectors and superintendents will be compromised between booting out PCs,being under-resourced in the community and giving them a slapped wrist forsexism in the workplace. I don’t have all the answers, but if police officers faced a stint in thelocal military police clink – like their peers in green uniforms – maybe theywould start to behave. Unfortunately, this is not an option on civvy street. Tony Howell Details supplied CIPD member does not mean ‘better’ I was alarmed to read recent correspondence from one of your readers whobelieves they have been unsuccessful in finding a new role thanks tonarrow-minded recruiters rejecting those without appropriate CIPDqualifications (Letters, 23 September). As much as I would like to believe that the contributor simply did not fitthe person spec or that their experience does not fit the job spec for thepositions they are applying for, I cannot help but think that maybe it isbecause they do not have the CIPD qualification I find it alarming that so many companies seem to insist on the requirementto have a CIPD qualification. I myself do not have the qualification; indeed, Irefuse to pay money to confirm what could be confirmed simply by taking fiveminutes to read over my CV. I am as capable and knowledgeable without the qualification as I would be withit, so why then do so many practitioners refuse to look any further whencandidates do not possess this ‘essential’ selection of letters? Could it be that they are compelled to create a person spec of somesubstance and then stick to it come hell or high water? Or, as I suspect, theydo not recruit outside the CIPD circle as to do so would invalidate their ownsense of worth over having achieved membership of a club for which they spendtheir hard earned cash on maintaining? Have HR practitioners become so insecure in their own abilities andexperience as to rely so heavily on a membership (and it is a membership, not aqualification) that is barely rated among many HR practitioners andcommentators? I do not doubt that the CIPD could play a significant role in taking theprofession forward. Is it not maybe more damaging, however, to create astandard that is an irrelevance to many within the profession? A good practitioner will be good regardless of membership, just as a poorpractitioner will be poor even with the membership. The letters CIPD change nothing about a professional other than to dip intotheir wallet/purse. Alasdair Martin HR officer, Quisine Foods Comments are closed. Features list 2021 – submitting content to Personnel TodayOn this page you will find details of how to submit content to Personnel Today. We do not publish a…
Bullying is becoming a serious problem in Europe’seducation sector – with students and parents usually the main culprits. Previous Article Next Article Related posts:No related photos. A report by the European Agency for Occupational Safety andHealth (EAOSH) said that 15 per cent of the 11 million employees in the sector– from teachers and cooks to administrative staff – have suffered physical orverbal abuse at work. EAOSH has issued best-practice advice to help staff in Europe’seducation sector minimise the risk of violence and other health hazards (http://europe.osha.eu.int/good_practice/sector/education/ “Our members want to go to work without the fear ofinjury or ill health caused by work, and we will continue our fight to ensuretheir health and safety is at the top of the curriculum,” said Hope Daley,national health and safety officer at Unison. Comments are closed. Each year, more than half a million staff in the sector haveto take time off due to work-related accidents and illness, accounting for 40per cent of all absenteeism, with most staying away for more than six days onaverage.In the UK,the Unison union called on employers to develop strong prevention measures toeliminate or reduce bullying and improve health and safety. School workers kept on the sick list by parent and student bulliesOn 14 Sep 2004 in Personnel Today Look out for theresults of our in-depth workplace bullying survey, carried out with the AndreaAdams Trust, in the 28 September issue of Personnel Today According to the report, employees also have to contend withdangerous substances in laboratories, sports injuries, work-related stress andslips on litter-strewn floors.
Cottrills Aspirations is offering Personnel Today readers an extra special rewardOn 9 Feb 2010 in Personnel Today It’s well documented that rewarding staff for loyal service, a sales target beaten or just a ‘thank you’ helps boost morale and retain employees for longer.Cottrills Aspirations can manage your reward scheme simply and easily. Offering all the best brands and must have items available from the high street, there really is something for everyone.As the market leader in providing merchandise rewards with over 17 years’ experience, Cottrills has a growing portfolio of highly satisfied corporate and public sector customers.For your chance to reward yourself with this great gift, which is just one of its best branded rewards enter now. It’s as simple as that.The winner will be drawn on Friday 1st May 2010 and we will email you straight away if it’s you!Good Luck!Enter competition Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article
Managing Covid-19 ‘clusters’ set to be a key challenge for occupational healthA recent SOM/Royal College of Nursing webinar offered occupational health practitioners valuable advice on how to manage Covid-19 outbreaks as… Previous Article Next Article NHS pledges ‘long Covid’ sufferers access to specialist support and rehabilitationPeople suffering so-called ‘long Covid’ symptoms months after contracting the virus are to be offered specialist help at NHS clinics… Related posts: Coronavirus: lockdown ‘phase two’ may bring added headaches for occupational healthNiggles, aches, pains and anxieties stored up during lockdown need to be nipped in the bud before they become long-term… Talking toolkits: unpicking Covid-19 return-to-work advice for occupational healthBy Nic Paton on 3 Jul 2020 in Anxiety, Stress, Cardiac, Mental health conditions, Coronavirus, Disability, Health & Safety Executive, OH service delivery, Return to work and rehabilitation, Occupational Health, Personnel Today No comments yet. Leave a Reply Click here to cancel reply.Comment Name (required) Email (will not be published) (required) Website Photo: Shutterstock With the UK now gradually reopening for business, organisations across the workplace health spectrum have been developing toolkits and resources to help occupational health professionals guide employers on safe return to work. Nic Paton looks at some of what’s now available.“At the heart of the return to work is controlling the risk posed by the virus. Ensuring safe working practices are in place will help deliver a safe return to work and support businesses across the country.”This comment by Health and Safety Executive chief executive Sarah Albon may, to an extent, have been stating the obvious. But her words at May’s launch of the government’s post-lockdown return-to-work guidance also encapsulate the central challenge facing occupational health as UK plc has gradually re-emerged over the past couple of months.As we reported in May and June, the fear within the profession is that the sheer scale of the physical and mental health return-to-work challenges it will face, combined with the practicalities of getting workplaces back up and running safely and the complexities of continuing to provide “normal” OH activities in a socially distanced working world, could become overwhelming.OH professionals will of course have little choice but simply to do the best they can in immensely difficult and complex circumstances – and the profession will undoubtedly rise to the challenge.However, the good news is that, since the crisis began and certainly since thoughts have begun to turn to questions around returning to work, organisations across the workplace health, safety and wellbeing spectrum have been developing resources to help.What this article therefore intends to do is to provide a snapshot – and this is in no way intended to be a definitive guide – of some of the useful toolkits, advice and guidance now available to OH practitioners wrestling with these complex questions. Inevitably, it will be up to practitioners themselves to sift and filter what is most relevant to the sector or organisations they are working with.But, with so much information now out there (and being added to all the time), the hope is this will provide at least some useful food for thought, pointers to resources you may not have been aware of, and some practical assistance in terms of navigating this new return-to-work landscape.The government’s ‘five steps’The government in its Working safely during coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance set out five steps to working safely that should act as a baseline for organisations, employers and, within that, occupational health to build upon to ensure a safe and healthy return to work. The five steps are:Carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment. This should be in line with Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance, including consultation with workers or trade unions, and the results should be shared with workers or on the organisation’s website.Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures. This should include encouraging people to follow the NHS’s guidance on hand washing and hygiene; the provision of hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms; frequent cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly; enhancing cleaning for busy areas; setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets; and providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers.Help people to work from home. Employers should “take all reasonable steps” to help people to continue to work from home by: discussing home working arrangements; ensuring they have the right equipment, for example remote access to work systems; including them in all necessary communications; and looking after their physical and mental wellbeing.Maintain two-metre social distancing, where possible. This should include putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance; avoiding sharing workstations; using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a two-metre distance; arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible; and switching to seeing visitors by appointment only if possible.Where people cannot be two metres apart, transmission risk should be managed. This should be achieved by considering whether an activity needs to continue for the business to operate; keeping the activity time involved as short as possible; using screens or barriers to separate people from each other; using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible; staggering arrival and departure times; and reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using “fixed teams or partnering”.On top of this, the guidance encompasses eight guides covering a range of different types of work. These include construction and outdoor work; factories, plants and warehouses; laboratories and research facilities; offices and contact centres; other people’s homes; restaurants offering takeaway or delivery; shops and retail branches; vehicles and mobile working.Public Health England updatesOccupational health practitioners will inevitably need to keep fully abreast of the regularly updated information being published by Public Health England.This includes collated guidance for the public, non-clinical settings, transport, adult social care, health professionals, infection prevention and control and sampling and diagnostics, among other areas.It is also where the weekly Covid-19 surveillance report is published and the dashboard where you can track statistics on cases and deaths.“Returning to the workplace after the Covid-19 lockdown” (SOM)This SOM (Society of Occupational Medicine) toolkit is free to download from the society’s website and has been developed with help from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), Business in the Community (BITC), and mental health charity Mind.It highlights the importance of organisations recognising that managing return to work in the “new normal” of post-Covid-19 will be as much about addressing social and emotional needs as medical concerns.While line managers will, naturally, be the first point of contact for employees returning to work, occupational health can play a key role in identifying and managing any specific obstacles to returning to work and agreeing a return-to-work plan where necessary or appropriate. The toolkit suggests a number of conversation starters, either for line managers or OH, along the lines of:How has life been?Are you OK about coming back?Do you feel safe coming back?How we can make your job better?Do you know who to talk with if any problems crop up?If someone has existing common health problems, questions could include:Do you feel up to doing your usual job with your health problem?What parts of your job will you find difficult because of your health problem?What can we change to help overcome the difficulties?Alongside this, the toolkit emphasises that all sides – employers, employees, HR and OH – will have a duty to understand how to make the workplace safe, their role in that process, and the need to be involved and work together in making those decisions.Within this, OH is likely to have a key and ongoing role in risk assessment, for example advice on cleaning, disinfection, ergonomic and hygiene/ventilation systems and how “stringent social distancing” can be applied in the workplace. Issues such as what the first day back will be like, what to expect, the commute and workplace strategies to minimise risk will also need to be addressed.When it comes to supporting mental health, the toolkit recommends employers providing and promoting access to mental health support, including awareness raising and tools and techniques to manage mental health, such as Mind’s Wellness Action Plans.The toolkit highlights that there may be mental health challenges in particular around managing the transition for workers out of lockdown to being back at work, or partially back at work. It recommends using the HSE’s Management Standards for Work Stress framework to help assess the risks posed by new ways of working.The toolkit can also be used in conjunction with a follow-up document published by SOM, Sustaining Work-Relevant Mental Health Post COVID-19 Toolkit, that has been developed with the Royal College of Psychiatrists and CIPD.This outlines good practice around work-relevant mental health, guidance to support and reduce stressors in the workplace, and advice on detecting and preventing mental ill health.Equally, it is important OH ensures line managers are aware of more general resources that may be helpful, with SOM citing the CIPD’s guide, Six steps to help your team thrive, and Acas’ Challenging conversations and how to manage them.The toolkit includes a potentially valuable risk assessment template for assessing Covid-19 transmission within the workplace and examples of various situations and risk judgements.When it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE), the guidance emphasises that employers should make clear whether PPE is mandatory or advisory, in other words have a clear policy and state consequences of non-compliance. As it states: “For customer-facing roles, this is not only a source of health and safety risks but also an issue that may cause considerable staff anxiety.”Within all this, SOM recommends that OH (as well as occupational therapy, physiotherapy, vocational rehabilitation and others) can play a key role in terms of:Education and intervention around psychological wellbeing. This can include addressing the barriers to people staying connected with families, friends, work and their community and encourage engagement in meaningful occupations, physical activity and relaxation to promote wellbeing and reduce symptoms of mental ill health.Onward referral and collaboration where additional specialist input is required. For example, this could include cardiac, pulmonary, or psychological.Intervention and support around breathlessness and fatigue management. This could include education, intervention and review.Self-management techniques. This could include pacing, grading, prioritising, relaxation and sleep hygiene education.Facilitation of group/individual rehabilitation. This would be delivered by other competent professionals and referrals to social prescribing schemes and signposting to community organisations and welfare rights advice.Resources from the Association of Local Authority Medical AdvisersThe Association of Local Authority Medical Advisers (ALAMA) now has a range of tools and guides on its website, as well as links to various other resources, including the SOM toolkit above and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine’s risk reduction framework for NHS staff (and see later for more on this).Importantly, it has developed a Covid-19 Medical Risk Assessment tool that provides information about personal vulnerability to Covid-19 according to age, sex, ethnicity and comorbidities.This, ALAMA outlines, is based around an analysis of epidemiological data for the UK looking at the contributions to vulnerability from sex, ethnicity and some of the most common comorbidities among people of working age, and has then been summarised in terms of their equivalence to added years of age. In essence, it allows for the calculation of a person’s “Covid-age”, or a simple summary measure indicating the age of a healthy white male with equivalent vulnerability.Given the growing recognition that Covid-19 is as much a disease that affects the blood as it is a respiratory illness, ALAMA’s Cardiovascular conditions and Covid-19 guide may also be useful.IOSH ‘Returning Safely’ suite of adviceAnother organisation that has been busy developing resources that may be useful to OH professionals is the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH).It has called for organisations to ensure new working arrangements factor in issues such as accessibility arrangements for all, example that people with disabilities have access to lifts, even if social distancing requirements now restrict their use.It can developed resources under the banner “Returning Safely”. These cover areas such as people, workplaces, equipment, systems, legal obligations and risk assessments.To look at just one, people, this includes a return-to-work after Covid-19 “factsheet” based around a four-point action plan, namely that organisations should:Introduce or revise their return-to-work policy.While workers are off work with illness, keep in regular contact with them.Take a tailored approach, including risk assessment of work tasks and return-to-work controls.Have a mechanism in place to review the plan.It then outlines who should be involved within the return-to-work team (senior managers, managers, HR, union or staff representatives, occupational safety or health and/or OH). It sets out some advice on return to work following bereavement and, crucially, the role as it sees it of the occupational safety and health professional. This will include, IOSH recommends:giving advice on risk assessments;promoting the benefits of work to workers’ health and wellbeing; andfocusing on what the worker can do and how barriers to their return to work can be removed.ICO advice on data protectionIn the scramble to get back to work and keep workers and workplaces safe the importance of maintaining data security and integrity can easily get overlooked.But the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published potentially useful advice for employers and OH around the data protection ramifications they may need to be considering within any new Covid-19 workplace testing regimes.The guidance, Workplace testing – guidance for employers is an FAQ-style document that runs through a range of key questions that employers may be likely to ask. For example, if an employer wants to carry out tests to check whether their staff have coronavirus symptoms, do they need to consider data protection laws?The answer here very definitely is “yes”, the ICO points out. As it states: “You will be processing information that relates to an identified or identifiable individual, so, you need to comply with the GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. That means handling it lawfully, fairly and transparently.“Personal data that relates to health is more sensitive and is classed as ‘special category data’ so it must be even more carefully protected. Data protection law does not prevent you from taking the necessary steps to keep your staff and the public safe and supported during the present public health emergency. But it does require you to be responsible with people’s personal data and ensure it is handled with care,” it adds.But, to emphasise, for brevity’s sake this is just one of ten questions covered in the guidance.Role of HSE inspectionsThe extent to which the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be able to carry out physical spot-checks to ensure workplaces are remaining “Covid-secure” remains a question of some debate.Prime minister Boris Johnson in May said the HSE would carry out safety spot-checks in workplaces to ensure employers were complying with social distancing and infection control rules.And, according to a poll by the union Prospect in June, nearly two-thirds (67%) of workers agree that random in-person checks should be carried out, compared with 9% saying phone checks would be good enough and 11% saying employers should be allowed to police themselves. Just 30% of workers said they would feel comfortable going into work if only telephone checks were taking place.However, according to The Independent newspaper, and citing figures from the House of Commons library, HSE staff numbers have fallen from 3,702 to 2,501 since 2009, while the number of inspectors had dropped from 1,495 to 978. The agency had also suspended physical spot inspections during the pandemic to keep its staff safe.Although Johnson has announced an extra £14m for the HSE to apply for, in the long term the executive’s funding has diminished, falling from £239m in 2009-10 to £135m in 2017-18, the newspaper added.In a statement, HSE at the end of May said that it would “carry out work to check that appropriate measures are in place to protect workers from Covid-19”, including resuming “targeted proactive inspection work of high-risk industries”.Faculty of Occupational Medicine guidanceThe Faculty of Occupational Medicine has published a consensus document, Risk reduction framework for NHS staff at risk of Covid-19 infection, that has emerged from an expert working group led by Professor Kamlesh Khunti.The group has been examining how best to protect the NHS workforce and develop a risk reduction framework based on the currently available evidence.“General Workplace Safety Risk Assessment” (the CIPD)This template form developed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) – so predominantly for an HR audience – is for employers to use to help manage the return to work process.It has emphasised that businesses need to ensure they can meet three key tests before bringing their people back to the workplace: is it essential, is it sufficiently safe, is it mutually agreed?“Protecting workers’ health during the extended Covid-19 outbreak” (BOHS)This document from the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) addresses a range of safety-critical issues, including biological infestation challenges such as legionella, the degradation of seals and others protections, corrosions and instability around chemical storage, and the accumulation of carcinogenic dusts.Areas covered include taking a risk-based approach to restarting work, understanding the spread and control of Covid-19, cleaning, safe restart protocols, reviewing existing risks, and coping with a lack of PPE, among other areas.“Back to business: supporting disabled employees post-lockdown” (BDF)This guidance from the Business Disability Forum brings together advice from the government, Equality and Human Rights Commission and others to offers practical advice for businesses on planning their back to the workplace strategies, in the context of their employees with disabilities.Topics covered include guidance on: the general post-lockdown environment, commuting and travelling for work, the office environment, psychological and social considerations, monitoring compliance and behaviours, preparing for a potential second wave, and employees waiting for NHS treatment and procedures.References“Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)”, May 2020, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance, Public Health England, https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/coronavirus-covid-19-list-of-guidance“Managing risks and risk assessment at work”, Health and Safety Executive, https://www.hse.gov.uk/simple-health-safety/risk/index.htm“How to wash your hands”, NHS, https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/best-way-to-wash-your-hands/“Returning to the workplace after the COVID-19 lockdown – toolkits”, https://www.som.org.uk/return-to-work/“Sustaining Work-Relevant Mental Health Post COVID-19 Toolkit”, SOM, https://www.som.org.uk/Sustaining_work_relevant_mental_health_post_COVID-19_toolkit.pdf“Covid-19 Medical Risk Assessment”, ALAMA, https://alama.org.uk/covid-19-medical-risk-assessment/“Cardiovascular conditions and Covid-19”, ALAMA, https://alama.org.uk/covid-19-medical-risk-assessment/cardiovascular-conditions-and-covid-19/“Returning Safely”, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, https://iosh.com/resources-and-research/our-resources/communicable-diseases/coronavirus/returning-safely/“Planning an individual’s return to work after illness with Covid-19”, Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, https://iosh.com/resources-and-research/our-resources/communicable-diseases/coronavirus/returning-safely/people/planning-an-individuals-return/“Workplace testing – guidance for employers”, ICO, https://ico.org.uk/global/data-protection-and-coronavirus-information-hub/data-protection-and-coronavirus/workplace-testing-guidance-for-employers/?fbclid=IwAR0aEafb861oTtPdMdn345uja_lgAF3_KcCuX7T8xNdOOt3LYi7oyoJGz8k“Prospect poll finds 67% of workers want in person spot-checks to ensure that workplaces are safe”, June 2020, Prospect, https://prospect.org.uk/news/prospect-poll-finds-67-of-workers-want-in-person-spot-checks-to-ensure-that-workplaces-are-safe/“Coronavirus: Majority of British workers want watchdog spot checks to keep them safe from Covid-19”, Independent, June 2020, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/coronavirus-workers-watchdog-spot-checks-a9541176.html“Risk Reduction Framework for NHS staff at risk of COVID-19 infection”, Faculty of Occupational Medicine, https://www.fom.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/Risk-Reduction-Framework-for-NHS-staff-at-risk-of-COVID-19-infection-12-05-20.pdf“General Workplace Safety Risk Assessment”, CIPD, https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/general-workplace-safety-risk-assessment-example_tcm18-77042.pdf“Protecting workers’ health during the extended Covid-19 outbreak”, BOHS, http://www.bohs.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/BOHS-COVID-Return-to-Work-Guidance-7-May-2020.pdf“Back to business: supporting disabled employees post-lockdown”, Business Disability Forum, https://businessdisabilityforum.org.uk/covid-19/back-to-business-considerations-for-employers-supporting-disabled-employees-post-lockdown/Mind, Wellness Action Plans, https://www.mind.org.uk/workplace/mental-health-at-work/taking-care-of-your-staff/employer-resources/wellness-action-plan-download/“Six steps to help your team thrive”, CIPD, https://www.cipd.co.uk/Images/help-your-team-thrive-at-work-1_tcm18-55932.pdf“Challenging conversations and how to manage them”, Acas, https://archive.acas.org.uk/conversationsManagement Standards for Work Stress, Health and Safety Executive, https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/standards/“Coronavirus: will it be occupational health rather than the NHS that is overwhelmed post-lockdown?”, May 2020 (print June 2020), Occupational Health & Wellbeing, https://www.personneltoday.com/?p=252272