2020 redefined HR priorities and taught us that humans and organisations are adaptable, that remote working is here to stay and that good mental health in the workplace is vital. But what have we learnt from 2021 so far and what is in store for HR professionals in the future?

A New Year

The year started with the end of the post-Brexit transition period in January. With a national lockdown in place and millions of employees in furlough, it was difficult to predict how labour markets would perform. It soon became obvious that the new points-based immigration system for EU-nationals together with a massive flux of non-UK workers towards their home countries has put a strain on organisations’ recruitment strategies. HR will play a key role during the following
years in supporting organisations with implementing strategic workforce planning and recruitment solutions.

The Job Retention Scheme

Furlough has continued to be in the spotlight for HR professionals during 2021. Since it was first introduced last year, it has now been extended five times and is currently scheduled to end in October. With recent changes in the level of Government and Employer contributions and the end of the Scheme in sight, a future challenge of ours lies on assisting employers in planning for a time without the furlough safety net. Decisions will need to be made by organisations within the next months about restructuring and redundancies, health and safety, return to work plans, legal obligations, timelines, employment terms changes, staff rotation, redeployments, etc. We have been partnering with clients to map out a smooth post-furlough plan for the last quarter of 2021.

A Return to Work

Although the vaccination programme has helped to pave the road to normality, our clients have faced a number of issues such as how to balance the Health and Safety at Work Act obligations with employees’ individual freedom to not get vaccinated. We expect to keep consulting organisations on matters relating to this and to the implementation of vaccination policies, risk assessments, effective communication about vaccinations and data protection.

With the end of the Covid restrictions planned for this summer, organisations are preparing for a return to a new normality, which has been at the heart of all HR discussions during this year. If 2020 was the year we learnt how to work remotely without choice, 2021 could be the year when we choose a new way of working remotely. We have had countless of insightful conversations with our clients and led consultations with numerous employees, and we have learnt that flexibility will be the crux of the matter moving forward. A long path of designing new flexible working and remote working policies lies ahead of us and we will continue to support clients with the implementation of new practices and policies.

It’s impossible to know what 2022 will bring (and what would be the fun in that?), but with some employment law developments in the pipeline, we expect some busy times ahead.