With the Covid-19 pandemic still raging and confusion lingering over the implications of Brexit, 2021 will be one of the supply chain’s most turbulent periods in decades. Because of that wider landscape, many logistics businesses are busier than at any point in their history.
Logistics operators need to be ready for that ‘new normal’, which means ensuring that staffing and human resources (HR) issues are identified and prioritised. With the sector recruiting, in places, at a faster pace than ever before to meet rising online shopping demand, due diligence in this area is critical. However, HR professionals are under increasing pressure to do more with less, stepping up to provide unheard-of levels of operational support while managing significant cultural internal change.
It is critical that logistics operations are adhering to the ever-changing regulatory landscape. But getting out from under mountains of admin and engaging with people in the business will prove equally essential this year to morale, culture, productivity, and of course, to business’ bottom line. There are five key areas where HR managers can add value to their business:
Mental health support
Additional delivery schedules owing to increased demand, has added massive pressure to our everyday working lives. In addition, there is added anxiety over workplace Covid-19 transmission. Whether employees are working from home, head office, or indeed are on the road, mental health support is crucial. Indeed, the Centre for Mental Health predicts that up to 10 million people – or 20% of the UK population – may need new or additional mental health support because of the pandemic.
Coronavirus job retention scheme (furlough)
Despite expansion, the logistics sector has had its fair share of furloughs. The national Coronavirus job retention scheme has now been extended until 30 April 2021, allowing employers to claim 80% of an employee’s salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Employers can furlough employees for any number of hours but will need to understand the implications for National Insurance and pension payments. While the scheme will be reviewed again as it nears that end date, organisations must consider how they will respond to either further extensions or the scheme’s overall closure.
It is also worth noting that April 2021 will also see changes to the National Living Wage, National Minimum Wage and Statutory Sick Pay come into force. All of these will have implications on organisations’ wage bills.
Brexit has been a defining issue of the last four years with huge implications for the flow of exports and imports. Despite the relief of a Brexit deal at the end of 2020, its implications of will continue to ripple for the foreseeable future. There are immediate HR issues to be considered. Employers should encourage existing team members from the European Economic Area to apply for settled or pre-settled status if they have not done so already. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021. There are also implications for recruitment, following the introduction of a new points-based immigration system in the UK on 1 January 2021, with individuals moving to the UK for work required to pay for a visa, as well as a healthcare surcharge.
Logistics and supply chains rely heavily on contractors. The off-payroll regulations will be rolled out to private sector organisations in 2021. There was a brief reprieve due to COVID-19; however, businesses will need to get their employment contracts in order to ensure they are behaving appropriately when it comes to tax for individual contractors employed via personal service companies.
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination
The Employment Bill introduced in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019 included a reference to extending the redundancy protection rights for pregnant employees and new parents, as well as making flexible working the default position. Timings for these consultations are yet to be confirmed. It is likely that employers will need to continue to approach flexible working and redundancy with sensitivity and an awareness of the context of Covid-19, while preparing for any further changes.
Greg Hartigan is managing director at HR tech platform caseflowhr