The effect of Coronavirus to Cornwall businesses.
Cornwall’s economy revolves around tourism so Coronavirus and lockdown has had a massive impact and there will be very few businesses who are exempt from the effects.
Almost everything in Cornwall comes back to tourism – holiday cottages, pubs, hotels, cafes, restaurants…..then there are the cleaning companies who clean the holiday cottages, the estate agents who sell and market the cottages, the catering suppliers who supply the pubs and restaurants, fisherman that catch the fish, the farmers providing the ingredients for Cornish pasties and the clotted cream……
It goes on and businesses in Cornwall will have used the Job Retention Scheme to furlough tens of thousands of employees and many of those employees are in the hospitality sector in pubs and restaurants, which is expected to be one of the sectors most impacted by Coronavirus and also one of the last sectors to come through the other side.
The situation has given cause for businesses to look at HR support – something that many Cornwall businesses will not have required before. Many of the jobs in Cornwall are either seasonal, based entirely around tourism, zero hours contracts or even casual and possibly cash in hand.
Many local companies – mainly SMEs admit that they don’t bother to issue employees with contracts of employment on the basis that “we’ve never had an problem” or they may be friends or family etc. Arrangements can be quite informal but Coronavirus has highlighted that, aside from the fact that an employee has a statutory right to a contract of employment, they serve an important purpose in setting out details of pay, overtime, holiday, sickness, hours of work, notice entitlement etc.
When we start to return to normal, it is possible that many companies are going to have to consider making employees redundant and in the case of companies in Cornwall, this may be the first time they have had to do this and it will soon become apparent that it isn’t just a case of “getting rid of someone” – and that there are considerations such as consultation, selection criteria and processes and procedures to be followed and if the issue is not manged properly, the company could find itself on the receiving end of an Employment Tribunal claim.
The effect of coronavirus to Cornwall businesses and in particular, in the case of pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes, there will be countless casual staff and there will invariably be chefs, managers, reception staff etc who will probably have many years of service. If they are going to be made redundant, it is imperative that their employers follow a process – hence the need for HR Support.
Some employers may have to consider reductions in pay and hours for employees and again, this will need to be documented and agreed but there will be many companies who will not appreciate the need for such formality.
We have also seen a massive increase in employees working from home through Coronavirus and no doubt, these arrangements will become permanent. In some cases, with some companies realising that they can make savings by moving to smaller office premises. These work from home arrangements were put in place quickly due to Coronavirus but in many cases they have shown that some people can work from home and be as productive and efficient as if they had been in the office. It is reasonable to expect that many employees will formally exercise their right to request flexible working (including work from home) and many employers are unaware that there is a process that must be followed to manage and deal with such requests.
HR support through AB HR Solutions will ensure that flexible working requests are managed correctly and that where a request for flexible working is going to be refused, there are clear business reasons to justify the refusal. Further complications can arise where a flexible working request is made in respect of a return to work after maternity leave because these cases can give rise to sex discrimination claims.
Although the Job Retention Scheme was introduced to cover Coronavirus and offer furlough leave, many employers are now realising the benefits of having specific lay off and short time working clauses in contracts. It is advisable that companies review their contracts of employment to ensure that they are still relevant and, in any case, new regulations came into effect in April 2020 regarding information that must be contained in contracts and the fact that new employees have an entitlement to a contract on their first day of employment.
The effect of coronavirus to Cornwall businesses many of which are family businesses and being passed down through the generations. Again many family businesses are quite complacent about contracts and formal HR policy, process and procedure on the basis that they argue they never have any problems, but even family businesses have issues that give rise to HR Support. Yes, families do fall out……and there is nothing worse than a family in dispute at an Employment Tribunal.
It generally follows that the need for HR Support is greater in businesses where the employee base is low skilled and pay is around minimum wage and also employee turnover tends to be higher in sectors where employees can move jobs quickly and easily for an extra 50p an hour. This is often a feature in roles associated with cleaning, security, the care sector, bar work, waiting on tables, grounds maintenance, catering and Cornwall has its fair share of people working in these sectors.
Further complexity can give rise to the need for HR support where roles require DBS clearance and although all employers are required to do UK work eligibility checks, this tends to be less of an issue in Cornwall as the workforce is less diverse but there are many employers in Cornwall who rely heavily on European labour.
Employing European labour is not without its challenges because not everyone will have a good command of the English language and AB HR Solutions have dealt with many situations in the last few years where employees from Eastern Europe have raised grievances about bullying in the workplace and, in one situation, an interpreter had to be used during the investigation.
So, Coronavirus has had a massive impact on Cornwall’s tourism business with tens of thousands of employees being put on furlough and the very real likelihood that there will be many redundancies which will further hit the economy in the county.
Coronavirus has also forced many businesses to go in search of HR support to deal with those tricky people issues that can have significant financial consequences if not manged correctly.
Any business that employs people will have HR issues – even Doc Marten needs HR Support and he only employs a receptionist in his GP Doctor surgery in Portwenn!!
Joking aside, filming of TV programmes like Doc Marten and Poldark has showcased Cornwall and, even though they may not be universally popular, TV chefs have made homes in the county and this has had a massive impact on the popularity of Cornwall.
It’s very straight forward – tourism is the mainstay of economy in Cornwall – it brings visitors who often come from more affluent areas and they want to spend money and the Cornish economy relies on their contribution, in turn creating and generating employment opportunities and this gives rise to a wide range of issues which call for HR suppport.