Posts Tagged ‘covid-19’

Voltedge and Enterprise Ireland ‘Emerging Through Covid-19: The future of work’ Guide

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

Voltedge and Enterprise Ireland are delighted to share with you our new guide, ‘Emerging Through Covid-19: The future of work’. The guide is intended for all Irish businesses that are preparing for a new chapter in how we work, as we move towards a post-Covid-19 era.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How has Covid-19 impacted the world of work? How might the introduction of hybrid or fully remote teams change the way you do business? What new skills will you need to attract, motivate and engage your employees?

The guide considers these and other topics related to how Covid-19 will affect the work environment in the future, as well as covering many of the questions that employers and employees will have.

Sections in the guide include:

  • Leadership at a time of transition
  • The evolving workplace for the future
  • Remote and blended working
  • Employee health and well-being
  • Resource planning in a virtual world

The ‘Emerging Through Covid-19’ guide also includes an FAQ section, a risk assessment template, and a suggested audit and employee surveys to help employers in their approach to this new landscape of work.

Click here to download your copy of the guide today.

HR & Employment Law – Round Up 2020 and a Look Ahead to 2021

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

As 2020 draws to a close and we take time to look back and reflect on what has happened this year, we find ourselves continuing to acknowledge what an unprecedented year it has been for us all. COVID-19 has touched every employer in some way or another and while the pandemic has certainly impacted and changed the world of work, our employment laws, codes of practices and guidelines largely remain the same.

 COVID-19 – HR & employment practices issues

Health & Safety

COVID-19 is predominantly a health & safety issue from a work perspective and employers have a duty of care for all employees under H&S legalisation.   While there are no new specific employment regulations related to COVID-19 in place, employers are required to comply with all existing H&S legislation and they must also ensure they comply with the range of obligations and requirements set out in the government’s living document – The Work Safely Protocol (the Protocol), originally issued in May 2020 and updated in November 2020.

The Protocol and the HSA provide various checklists to support employers in providing a safe working environment both onsite and remotely during COVID-19.  Despite the good news on impending vaccines, we expect that COVID-19 will be with us for a significant part of 2021 and employers will still need to continue to review and follow the Protocol for some time yet.

 Layoff, Short time & Redundancy

During 2020, unfortunately many employers were forced to lay off employees or reduce working hours as a result of COVID-19.  Normally, employees on lay off or on short-time hours can claim redundancy from an employer after 4 weeks or more, or 6 weeks in the last 13 weeks. If employees were put on lay off or short-time hours because of COVID-19, their right to claim redundancy has been temporarily suspended.

This rule became effective under the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act from 13 March 2020 and has been extended up until 31 March 2021. Employers are reminded that when selecting employees for lay off or short time working, they should apply the same criteria for selection as for redundancy. The criteria should be reasonable and applied fairly.

While it is expected that many businesses will recover post pandemic, it is anticipated that there will likely be some level of redundancies once the right to claim redundancy has been lifted.  It is important to note that where a business needs to restructure due to COVID-19 and where it may result in potential redundancies, then all the normal redundancy procedures including consultation and selection must be followed.

Working from Home – Ireland & Abroad

Working from Home

Employers reminded that under H&S legalisation, they have a duty of care for all employees even when they are working remotely.   For so many businesses, remote working became a forced necessity rather than a choice.  Many of the arrangements were put in place literally overnight with little time for planning and evaluating risks and supports needed for both the employer and employees.

The updated version of the Protocol guides that  “All staff should continue to work from home to the greatest extent possible” and that employers should develop and consult on working from home policies in conjunction with workers. Employers should familiarise themselves with their H&S obligations which include carrying out risk assessments, provision of equipment etc.

As we move into 2021, it is clear that many organisations will continue to either work remotely in the short term or engage in “blended” working models for the future. In addition to their H&S obligations, employers will need to develop more detailed Working From Home Policies which set out criteria for eligibility,  H&S guidelines for working remotely and also address issues such as Data Protection, Well-Being and Recording of Working Time & Rest breaks.

Engaging with employees at an early stage either through discussion or employee survey would be a great way to address any concerns and to develop a policy that meets both the individual and business needs.

Working from Home – Abroad

In some cases, non-Irish employees chose to return to their home countries and are continuing to work remotely overseas.  It is really important that employers are fully aware of the implications of continuing to permit these arrangements and the potential risks associated with the employee acquiring employment rights in another jurisdiction or giving rise to a tax liability for either the employee and employer in another country.

While most jurisdictions have a taken a flexible and pragmatic approach to these type of arrangements during 2020, it is imperative that employers have a clear understanding of the potential risks that may arise should they continue into 2021.

The right to disconnect

Increasingly, technology has blurred the lines between work and personal life. For many, home working and COVID-19 restrictions has resulted in significantly increased “work-life blur” and is having a significant mental and physical health impact. Unlike some other European countries, there is currently no specific legislation in Ireland that explicitly refers to the right to disconnect.

Between 2016 and 2018, France, Belgium and Spain have all introduced “right to disconnect” legislation.  While it remains to be seen if Ireland follows the lead of other countries and addresses this, some larger organisations are already developing policies that set guidelines and boundaries for their employees.

Retirement Ages & Pensions

The qualifying age for the state pension became a key election issue in February 2020.  As a result of significant political negotiations, the qualifying age for state pension will remain at 66 years for now. While the public sector pension age is now 70, there is still no fixed retirement age in the private sector and many employers continue to face legal challenges as their employees push to work longer.   Employers can establish a mandatory retirement age for employees, but such ages must be capable of being reasonably and objectively justified if they are challenged by employees as being discriminatory on grounds of age.

While a national auto-enrolment occupational pension scheme has been promised for several years, no further progress has been made on this and the pandemic has seen the matter pushed back again.

Family Leave & Flexible Working

Parental Leave increased from 22 week up to 26 weeks with effect from 1 September 2020.  Parental leave entitles parents to take unpaid leave from work to spend time looking after their children. Employees can take up to 26 weeks’ parental leave for each eligible child before their 12th birthday. In general, employees must have been working for an employer for at least a year to get the full amount of parental leave and must give at least 6 weeks’ notice before taking parental leave.

 Parent’s Leave

The current 2 weeks’ parent’s leave is set to increase to 5 weeks for each parent with effect from 1st April 2021.  Parents will be able to take this leave during the first 2 years of their child’s life (or 2 years from adoption).

Flexible Working

Prior to the arrival of COVID-19, the Department of Justice launched a public consultation in January 2020 on flexible working, which aims to help the government address and consider a number of issues relating to flexible working.  While remote working has been a dominant topic during 2020, there is still the broader topic of flexible working to contend with.

The EU Work Life Balance Directive extends the right to request flexible working arrangements to carers and working parents of children up to eight years old. This includes the right to request reduced working hours, flexible working hours and remote working options.  Under the EU Directive, the statutory right to request flexible working will come into effect no later than August 2022.

Illness Benefit & Statutory Sick Pay

Employees who have been told to self-isolate or who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 may claim COVID-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit.   The benefit can be claimed from the first day of isolation or a COVID-19 diagnosis and will be paid for a maximum of 2 weeks where an employee is required to self-isolate and for up to a maximum of 10 weeks where an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and unable to work as a result. This benefit is planned to be in place up until March 2021.

As part of Budget 2021, it was announced that the number of waiting days for the standard Illness Benefit will be reduced from 6 days to 3 days on new claims (from the end of February 2021).

Ireland is one of only a small number of European countries in which there is no legal obligation on employers to provide for sick pay. The Government has recently launched a consultation process on the provision of a Statutory Sick Pay Scheme with a view to it being introduced in late 2021.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting

It had been expected that the introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting would come into law during 2020. However, with the focus on other priorities such as COVID-19, progress on the legislation has been slow.  The European Commission announced a five-year strategy in March 2020 that includes legislative proposals on pay transparency.

Binding measures aimed at increasing pay transparency and providing enforcement mechanisms are due to be published by the end of the year. While we do not yet know what form the EU measures will take, the announcement should re-prioritise the Bill here and we would expect to see this back on the agenda during 2021.

Minimum Wage

Since 1 February 2020, the national minimum wage is €10.10 per hour. The Government has approved increasing the national minimum wage by 10 cent per hour, from €10.10 to €10.20 from 1 January 2021.

Liz O’Donovan, Senior HR Consultant

Tips for a Healthy Happy Festive Season With a Difference

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Looking back at the tips from previous years, it makes it even more apparent how different this Christmas is.  No office parties, big lunch or dinner engagements; no big family get togethers; no big social outings.  The word BIG is one of the big differences this year and very often it is the big events around Christmas that can cause us the most stress.  Worrying about how to manage the excesses and overindulgences, the sometimes-fraught nature of too many people in one place, the social anxiety that can ruin a work event, family tension, are all the things we have highlighted in the past as areas to mind yourself over Christmas.

This year most of these potential stresses are not going to be there!! Everything had got very BIG around Christmas with the financial pressures adding a further burden to stretched households.  This year will be very different.  There is no doubt we will miss a lot of the BIG occasions however this time may give us an opportunity to understand what really is important in our lives and help us to realign our focus for the future.

That in itself is a challenge, we have been catapulted into an existence we did not prepare for and minding ourselves, our family, friends and colleagues over the Christmas season will be more important than ever this year.

Loneliness and Isolation

Unfortunately, many people will be feeling isolated this Christmas. It is particularly important, as employers, to have insight into your employees’ circumstances around this time.  Are they unable to travel home, are they in any way compromised and unable to be with family or friends? Be mindful of anyone in these circumstances, reach out and let them know they are not alone and have points of contact throughout the holiday period. A colleague calling for a chat, walk or even a phone call could make a huge impact on that person’s self-esteem.

Over-Indulgence

We may not be out socialising as much as previous festive seasons, however temptation is not far away with shop shelves laden down with tasty treats “hey it’s Christmas”! And yes, we do all deserve to overdo it a little but the key message here is MODERATION.  If we are spending more time at home, there is the temptation to graze continually. Think about what and how much you are eating, enjoy it and savour it and then hit the Stop button.

The same message applies to alcohol. We all enjoy a few tipples particularly around Christmas time, but as we won’t be out socialising as much as before there is the temptation as with food to graze at home.   Be mindful of how much you are drinking, particularly if you are alone and feeling in any way low.  Feelings are magnified with alcohol and can become overwhelming. Reach out to friends and family for support and mind yourself.

Exercise

Getting out in the fresh air will lift anyone’s mood, help shift those extra pounds and is an opportunity to safely meet up with family and friends.  Make sure to get out every day even for a short walk, the impact this has on our wellbeing is huge.  Arrange to walk and talk, bring along a coffee and explore new places together. Kids love nothing more than going for a ramble, wrap up but on the boots and get mucky!!

Stress

This has been a year like no other and no one has been shielded from the stress it has brought upon us.  No matter what our personal circumstances, it is important to take a step back and rest, both our minds and bodies.  Keeping Christmas simple this year will help in easing some of the stress and tension.  Be mindful of your mental health and that of those around you, and don’t be afraid to ask for support and help.  There are some fantastic supports available on www.mentalhealthireland.ie including a Family Wellbeing Toolkit, Mindful Moments, a Recharge Worksheet and many more.

Voltedge has also developed a series of wellbeing webinars which can be offered to employees to help them Realign & Recharge and manage working in a COVID-19 environment. Contact us 01 5252914 for more details on our webinars and to discuss your specific requirements.

Finally have some fun

Introduce some new Christmas traditions, dust off the old boardgames, plan adventures, plan for the COVID-19 free future and finally nurture all those around you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ingrid O’Sullivan, Operations Manager

Covid-19 Response Support Testimonial

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Voltedge has developed a range of business supports to assist SME’s to manage the challenges of the impact of COVID-19 in the workplace. There is no one complete solution to manage the challenges experienced as a result of COVID-19 in the workplace. Every environment is different, and our services are designed to enable your business move forward with confidence at this time.

Here’s what one of our clients has to say about our Covid-19 Response Support.

“NTRON, a critical manufacturing site for our corporate Group PST, engaged Voltedge Management to develop our COVID-19 Business Response Plan to follow government protocol promptly. It was essential that we created a safe and fully operational workplace where our employees could come to work in the knowledge that their health and safety was safeguarded to the highest standards and that our business would not be adversely impacted by any risk presented by Covid-19.

Voltedge Management provided us with a dedicated expert who worked with the NTRON management team to develop a comprehensive plan and supporting procedures including the necessary training and worker representative supports. This has been significant in providing us with the security and knowledge that our workplace is compliant and that we have taken all of the necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus within our workplace.

An added bonus for us was when we received recognition from our parent company PST for “COVID-19 response plan and development of “return to work” plan is a PST Best Practice”.   This was without doubt due to the excellent support we received from Voltedge Management and we would highly recommend engaging their support in getting your business COVID-19 secure.”

John Dunne, Finance and Accounting Director at NTRON

 

We will work with you to identify what your specific business needs are and develop a plan that is relevant and cost effective for your business. This is a good opportunity to review your current handbook and policies to ensure they are fully compliant with all the latest legislation. Contact Voltedge for the most up to date information and advice. Email us at info@voltedge.ie or ring our office 01 525 2914.

IMCA Webinar Chaired by Fredericka Sheppard

Monday, September 7th, 2020

 

The IMCA is the national and internationally recognised professional institute for management consultants and business advisers in Ireland.

As they old saying goes “Ships are safe in port but that’s not what they were built for..” and equally as a profession IMCA recognise as management consultants the vital importance of being able to reengage with clients and look to meeting new prospects in a post lockdown environment.

The expert panel will be chaired by Voltedge Co-Managing Director Fredericka Sheppard and she will be chatting to Ian Hannon and Garrett Harte as they share their respective insights into the most effective approaches to reengaging with the market in a safe and compelling manner.

This will be a sell out event so ensure to book early to avoid disappointment. 

Click here to register.

Watch On Demand Webinar ‘Transitioning Back to the Workplace’

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

This webinar provides expert guidance from Fredericka Sheppard and Joyce Rigby-Jones, joint Managing Directors of Voltedge, and Karen Hernandez from Enterprise Ireland, about the steps companies should implement to support the smooth transition of employees back into the workplace. You can also learn about the supports that are available from Enterprise Ireland.

Throughout the webinar the speakers discussed:

  • The role of the employer in ensuring the continued health, safety and wellbeing of employees.
  • Communicating & engaging with employees around their return to the workplace
  • Resource planning & restructuring of roles and responsibilities
  • Supports available from Enterprise Ireland.

You can watch the webinar replay, view the slides and the Return to Workplace guide here.

Employer Guide to Managing the COVID-19 Situation

Thursday, March 12th, 2020

Voltedge has developed an Employer Guide to Managing the COVID-19 situation to assist SME’s to practically manage this unprecedented situation.  We understand that all businesses, no matter what sector, now find themselves in a challenging and difficult situation with anxious employees and an uncertain economic horizon.

With all of the difficulties being communicated via  social media and other media channels, we have been focusing on developing robust and practical contingency plans to help you put an action plan in place to secure your business and support your employees.

Our Employer Guide includes:

Contingency Plan
A comprehensive template, covering Business Actions, Continuity Measures and Employee Planning Actions. It addresses all the elements you as a business need to focus on.

COVID-19 Virus Employee Policy
This template allows you to customise the policy with relevant contact details and can be circulated to staff to ensure they are aware of what is expected of them and what they can expect from you.

Short time / Lay off and Alternatives
Voltedge can provide full details and advice on the above and the implications of cost control for employers.

Remote Working Policy and Guidelines
More and more people are being asked to work from home and it can be daunting at first if it is not something that employees are used to. Providing them with a policy outlining expectations and some guidelines and tips on best practice will make the transition a more positive experience and provide more productive outputs.

FAQ’s
This answers many of the current questions employers are being asked including information on the latest welfare / sick pay arrangements.

In addition to this pack Voltedge can advise you on setting up a Steering Committee who can then provide the relevant guidance and information to whole organisation in a structured and managed way.

As this is an evolving situation we will continue to keep you informed of any important updates, further business implications and government directives.

If you are interested in our guide and would like to find out more please contact us on 01 5252914 or email ingrid@voltedge.ie