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Like for most employers, the Covid-19 pandemic has posed a range of operational and HR challenges for Yorkshire Water over the past year. As Susan Gee explains, proactively supporting employee health and wellbeing, including staff struggling with “long Covid”, has been at the heart of its response.
Prior to the pandemic, Yorkshire Water had an established track record of supporting employee health, safety and wellbeing. We have a committed and experienced in-house occupational health team, which is part of a wider health, safety, environment and security team. Both work effectively and collaboratively with our HR function, and are supported by our trade union colleagues.
In addition, a major commitment, and the big ambition at the centre of our business strategy, is to put people at the heart of everything we do. Early referral to OH is embedded in the sickness absence policy and, as such, managers are practised and compliant in referring employees to OH. Equally, managers are well-supported by HR in managing attendance.
A comprehensive suite of health promotion initiatives has been on offer for many years across the organisation; the projects are aligned with the public health agenda. In addition, there is a wellbeing strategic group, chaired by our health and safety director and supported with wellbeing representatives from every area of the business. This group meets quarterly to discuss future projects and highlight any issues that may impact on the wellbeing equilibrium of the organisation.
Before I get to detailing the wellbeing strategy we have in place to support employees who recovering from Covid-19 and, especially, “long covid”, it is important to understand how the organisation initially reacted to the pandemic from a business prospective. This has shaped, and continues to influence, how we are helping our employees to feel safe and well, and to thrive during this difficult time.