The COVID Effect on Employee Disputes

Are we fed up yet of hearing “well, that’s COVID’s fault” or “I am sorry, that’s due to COVID”?  How has COVID become the reason for everything wrong in the world?  Your order is delayed, that’s COVID; shops not having the stock – constantly – that’s COVID; another event that you were looking forward to is cancelled, sorry it is down to COVID. Well, here is another to add to that long list that no one is actually talking about, and we need to be: Employee Disputes and how there’s a new culture of blame that’s being exploited – and could cost the lives of businesses across the county. Sadly, businesses are having to cut costs to ensure that their business has a fighting chance of survival.  They are having to make agonising decisions with their staffing structures and are having to continue to address performance and potential misconduct… The world continues to turn, despite this year’s best efforts to make it stop! Now, employee disputes are not a new thing; claims to Employment Tribunals have been long in existence and the risks have always been spoken about loudly and clearly in the business community.  We aren’t necessarily seeing a rising number of formal claims, and certainly at the start of all things COVID, there was a genuine acceptance of the need to make redundancies, reduce hours or pay, with sadness and understanding coming from both the employer and the employee.  Even the majority of cases of misconduct were met with disappointment, yet acceptance. But not now.  What’s changed?  Fear… Fear has set in: every day, we see a new case in the media highlighting thousands of redundancies, speculation of the worst job recession since the Second World War, and rising unemployment statistics. People are scared that if they are made redundant, performance managed, disciplined or – worse still – dismissed for misconduct reasons, that they are not going to be able to secure a new position easily – because the media are telling us that no one is recruiting. What we are now seeing is many more employers executing processes in exactly the right way, following a fair and proper process and with good reason – whether it is redundancy, restructure, disciplinary or performance management – and the number of internal disputes as a result are disproportionately rising.  Angry and emotion-fuelled arguments being raised by scared employees who are fighting for their family’s survival, are being received by exhausted and fatigued employers who are equally fearful and wanting to ensure their businesses survive.  Many cases are starting to result in ugly exits from businesses, without prejudice or protected settlement, or claims to an Employment Tribunal. This is a very real COVID effect on businesses that we are all handling and we are all too ready to blame unsympathetic, money grabbing employees who are out to claim the last penny from their employers, or blame nasty employers who are using this as an excuse to get rid of employees and make more money! Honestly, we only see this getting worse with the second national lockdown. Do we really want months of protracted arguments, which are fuelled with disappointment and anger?  Experience tells us that this will not only drain your bank account, but your emotions too. Let us remember that this hasn’t been an easy year for anyone.  Fatigue is setting in – if it’s not present already – employers and employees are all exhausted, frightened and, perhaps, reacting in a way that nine months ago they wouldn’t have dreamed of.  When you are faced with a situation of preparing to fight, no matter which side of the battle line you are coming from, try and take a considered approach to establish what is motivating that reaction.  And before preparing your attack or defence, take a step back, take good advice from a reputable professional who will support you with more than the law, and only then, put your fingers to the keyboard or allow the words to come out of your mouth. If you want help, support or a friendly HR ear to help you through the COVID effect, please call Toni on 07960 418494 or if it’s easier, email toni@nucleushr.com

As with everything in 2020, the only constant is change.  If you need any assistance with catching up, keeping up or simply confirming your understanding, please do email toni@nucleushr.com or call 07960 418494, we look forward to supporting you

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