More than half (53%) of HR professionals “expect” new government restrictions to be imposed as the coronavirus pandemic enters its second winter, with a further 43% conceding that such interventions remained possible.
That is according to a recent survey of senior HR, finance and payroll professionals, representing a global workforce of nearly half a million employees.
Only 2% of employers did not believe any further government restrictions would be required.
The research was carried out by the consultancy Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing just days before the Prime Minister’s announcement last week of possible “Plan B” measures should the pandemic situation worsen.
Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at Howden, said: “Howden’s findings are not surprising given that UK Covid-19 infection rates at the start of September are around 30 times higher than at the same point last year. So human resources professionals are being entirely realistic in accepting – and preparing for – a further period of restrictions should they be needed.”
Employers appear to be resilient however, with 42% not expecting renewed restrictions to cause any harm to their company’s income or profitability. A similar proportion (38%) acknowledged that new restriction would damage business “a little”, but only 15% felt that the commercial impact could be significant.
“The government has made it clear that vaccines have lowered the mortality risk associated with the pandemic, and that lockdowns are now considered a last resort,” said Howden.
“So any future restrictions are likely to be lighter-touch measures such as mandated mask wearing, a return to working from home for some, or possibly the more controversial issue of vaccine-only Covid-status certification requirements.”
Howden also asked employers how exposed they were to increased staff absences in the winter ahead as a result of growing NHS waiting lists. More than half said that some (30%) or all (21%) of their employees were reliant on NHS treatment if faced with illness or injury.
Nearly a third of organisations (31%) already offer all their employees access to some form of private healthcare or treatments. A further 12% were unconcerned by increasing waiting lists as they traditionally experience very low levels of sickness absence.
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