April 14, 2020
HR Professionals — the Unsung Heroes During the COVID-19 Crisis
I have spent the last month working more hours than ever trying to keep up with the ever-changing landscape of Employment Law at this unprecedented time. That new word “F-word” – Furlough – what is it? Where did it come from?
There has been no time to look – immediately businesses of every size need to know what to do. All business leaders have turned to HR to work their magic. As if being in HR isn’t lonely enough, when all eyes are on you to know the answers immediately about something that you know nothing about, the pressure is really on.
So how have you coped at this difficult time? Where have you got your information from? Ordinarily the official guidance that is issued about a legal matter is enough to rely on, right? Not this time! The HMRC guidance has been amended so many times since it was published that I have literally lost count. Every morning I wake up and I open my notifications with trepidation anticipating more change and, usually, I am not disappointed!
Taxing HR questions about furlough leave
This morning I was asked “My member of staff is on a phased return to work and we have deemed it not appropriate to continue with his phased return (for reasons I won’t go into); how do we calculate his 80% Furlough Pay when he was on zero pay at 28th Feb and 12 months ago he was on Statutory Sick Pay? However, at the time of furlough he was working 32% of his normal hours (phased return)”.
All these touch points hadn’t been covered in the guidance so the answer is a guess at best – as an employment law specialist ‘guessing’ does not sit easy with me.
Yesterday I was posed the following question: “ACAS guidance now states employees can take holiday during their furlough – do I pay them 80% or 100% and if I pay the bank holidays does that mean furlough is stopped and I can’t claim back the 80% from HMRC as they will only have been furloughed 9 days and not the 3 week minimum?”
Well, I was able to immediately answer the first question (100% pay) but still after much digging I can’t answer the second question. Seemingly, neither can HMRC as the question has been asked directly to them and at the time of writing they have not given an answer. This is almost 4 weeks since the scheme was announced and simple questions can still not be answered.
Managing the stress of HR practice
Organisations quite rightly expect HR to have the answers to all of these questions. With the best will in the world, and despite working 14-16 hours per day to stay on top of developments, we don’t. And we can’t be expected to.
So if, like me, you are spinning plates that don’t have a centre of gravity, then stop! Breathe! Take a moment and relax. Maybe even take advantage of these tips on mindfulness and focus: click here.
Those of you that have attended one of my CIPD Level 7 Human Resources in Context (HRC) workshops will recall the video I play “Connecting HR to the Business Context” by David Ulrich. He sets the HR function in context and asks who is looking after us? If you have six minutes to spare after you have finished this blog then come back to this link later and watch it.
Right now, you won’t be alone if you feel a little unappreciated. There is nobody outside at 8pm on a Thursday clapping for all the work you do. There may not be many executives in your organisations falling over themselves with praise for all the extra workload, emotional burnout, and the worry you have taken on. But we HR folk have each other. We understand each other and we are a community of practice that cares and have the skill set for challenges like these.
The DPG Community is here for you too.
So, at this difficult time, lets be there for each other. If you have questions relating to the challenges we are all facing at the moment then post them on the DPG Community and let’s see if we can help each along so we can reduce some of the stress and the loneliness. And remember, we will come out the other side of this. And when we do, our business will eventually recognise it was us that gave them all the answers in the end. You are an HR hero – we are clapping for you!
Theresa Mayne — DPG Facilitator
Theresa is a member of the 32 strong DPG Facilitation team, supported by 28 DPG team members who care. Currently working from 60 locations across the UK , and standing by to help you — our unsung HR heroes.