HR professionals are now moving beyond the immediate crisis stage in dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic as home-working, furloughing and heightened workplace health and safety measures bed in, research by employment specialists XpertHR reveals.
But while an increasing proportion of the workload is now around less business-critical issues, the research shows that the pressures on HR teams are intense, with many professionals struggling to balance the demands of their business, the need to support employees’ mental health, and their own wellbeing.
The Impact of Coronavirus
The survey of 388 HR professionals, conducted over a single 24-hour period on Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 April found that:
- The proportion of HR professionals reporting that they were spending all or almost all their time on work driven by the pandemic has fallen from 42.8% two weeks ago to 32.2% now
- More than 71.7% of organisations are now using or are planning to use the government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to fund 80% of the pay of furloughed workers
- One in four employers (25.5%) are making people redundant or plan to do so – a similar proportion to that found two weeks ago in our last survey
- Fewer employers (28.8%) are now putting employees on short-time working – down from 37.2% two weeks ago
The survey found that employers using the CJRS are typically using it to furlough a minority of their workforce. Nearly one in three (28.8%) say they are furloughing less than 10% of their employees.
Many employers also plan to top up the pay of furloughed employers. Although the government scheme pays 80% of salary up to a maximum of £2,500 a month (the equivalent of £30,000 a year), more than one in three (35.4%) plan to top this up to full salary.
In other key findings:
- 71.5% of employers dealt with employee requests to cancel annual leave over Easter
- 51.3% have seen employees asking to cancel leave later in the year;
- 36.2% required employees to take annual leave as the closedown hit their business
- 13.8% asked employees if they would cancel annual leave as workloads have risen
The Impact on HR Professionals
While nearly nine out of ten employers are asking HR to provide mental wellbeing support for their employees, many HR professionals are themselves clearly struggling under the pressure.
Among the comments made by respondents to the survey were HR professionals who said:
“It is slightly better now that there is more guidance on the Job Retention Scheme but in all honesty myself and my team are shattered.
We are doing the most amazing job in difficult circumstances and it’s our sense of humour that’s keeping us going”
“The demands of COVID-19 in the initial few weeks pre and post lockdown were incredibly challenging due to the extreme high number of queries which was due to uncertainty of staff and managers and the ever-changing guidance that was being provided by the government.
Now that this period has settled somewhat, there has been an expectation that things should have been going on as normal.
All of this coupled with my own personal circumstances has been extremely challenging.”
“It’s been very busy and taxing on my mental health.”
“I’ve been making added effort to stay connected with colleagues, professional associates, family and friends, to keep myself up to date on all things C-19 and to ensure we are doing what we can to keep our people engaged and to maintain our workplace culture”
Commenting on the findings, XpertHR, Content Director, Mark Crail said:
“The pressure of work being handled by HR teams across the country is enormous.”
“We are now moving on from an initial phase of crisis management, where everyone was pretty much making it up as they went along, to a more ordered and considered set of longer-term arrangements – something you might call ‘business as unusual’” Mark continues.
“It is to the enormous credit of HR professionals that they have risen to this challenge – but their managers need to be aware that the demands are proving personally as well as professionally difficult for many.”
“It’s not easy to support other people’s mental wellbeing when you are struggling yourself,” concludes Mark.
About the XpertHR Survey
The XpertHR and coronavirus survey collected responses from HR professionals in 388 organisations. By sector:
- 198 were private sector services companies
- 70 in manufacturing and production
- 41 in the public sector
- 79 not for profit.
- 221 employed fewer than 250 people
- 94 had between 250 and 999 employees
- 73 employed 1,000 or more