Coronaphobia Causing Problems For Small Businesses Who Require Return Of Staff

Following the latest announcements by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak about the ‘winding down’ of the furlough scheme, as well as the slow lifting of the restrictions, many businesses across the country are trying to adapt to the social distancing measures so they may open safely.  Many business will also be facing issues with staff; from those who are unable to return due to childcare issues, to positions that are no longer sustainable.  A new issue is also arising whereby staff are reluctant to come back in due to safety concerns over the virus.

Many small businesses throughout the UK are reporting problems getting their staff to return to work following the national lockdown in March, with some claiming stress or anxiety and others asking to be furloughed for as long as possible – which currently stands until August following the Chancellor’s announcement last Friday.

“It’s crazy to think that after all this uncertainty and worry – that happy time arrives when you can invite staff back to work and that they don’t want to actually come back!”, says Jonathan Ratcliffe who runs office space company Offices.co.uk

“Those struggling mentally you can well understand and have my sympathy, but we have seen first-hand staff simply asking if they can stay on furlough for a bit longer, it’s crackers, I couldn’t believe my ears”, adds Ratcliffe.

Businesses must be careful in how they react to these requests.  It is an employer’s duty to provide a safe place of work, which could be difficult if employees are being asked to work closely with the public.  If measures cannot be put in place to ensure the safety of an employee and they refuse to return, an employee may have grounds for unfair dismissal if they are made redundant as a result.

Every business will be different due to the way they operate and whether they will be able to maintain social distancing rules, however it is clear that demand will only increase as the lockdown is eased, meaning people will be required to return to roles despite any ‘coronaphobia’ they may have.

“I totally sympathise with everyone who has been furloughed, it’s a tough time, but we must realise the scheme cannot go on indefinitely. We want to welcome employees back with socially distanced open arms and build our way back out of this mess”, Ratcliffe concludes.

Although many UK law firms are beginning to find their feet in respect of working from home, does your firm expect a return to the office any time soon, and if so, are you concerned staff may fear coming in?

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