June 24, 2020 Working on the 4th July
“The fourth of July can’t come soon enough.” That comment from FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) Chairman Mike Cherry no doubt echoes the thoughts of many businesses across England as they contemplate life after lockdown. Whilst some businesses have been able to keep trading throughout the pandemic crisis, many others have had no option other than to shut their doors for the last three months.
Either way there are very few businesses which have not been affected in one way or another. And it has to be acknowledged that some business sectors are still in limbo, awaiting the result of further reviews and discussions before being allowed to reopen.
Nevertheless, reopening does come at a price as businesses invest in protective measures including remodelling offices, installing protective screens, improving ventilation, and potentially instigating shift working. As the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said in his statement to Parliament on 23 June, 1 metre plus is “broadly equivalent to the risk at 2 metres if those mitigations are fully implemented.”
According to the FSB, 25% of businesses say it will cost more than £1000 to take the necessary measures to move towards meeting the 1 m plus guidelines. The Institute of Directors (IoD) echo the FSB’s concerns about the cost of implementing new safety measures. Commenting that “if anything, the onus is now even more on directors to ensure rigorous mitigating measures are in place,” the IOD have called for the Treasury to consider supporting companies to make the necessary adjustments.
We’ve written before about the directors’ duty of care and this is certainly one duty which the pandemic has brought to the fore. It’s also a duty which is not going to go away as the potential for future flare-ups means that companies are likely to be looking at long-term implementations for many of these new measures. These could include encouraging employees to work from home on a semi-permanent basis, implementing new procedures on the safe handling of goods, or instigating a new conference based approach in order to reduce face-to-face meetings.
Whatever the approach, it will be a rare business which does not have to reappraise its strategy and processes in order to take account of COVID factors. When those reappraisals take place it is also vital that conclusions are shared widely. Employees and customers naturally need to know that their safety and security is taken seriously. But others such as suppliers, investors and the wider public also need to be reassured about the direction in which directors are taking the organisation.
We may be looking at return to working on the 4th July. But make no mistake; the journey towards the new normal has only just begun.