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The New Normal (And It’s All Different!)

The New Normal (And It’s All Different!)
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by
Managing Director

2020 so far has been a bit of a shock to the system, hasn’t it! In fact, the UK has been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride for some time now, with the uncertainty over Brexit, a change in leadership, a swift General Election. That seemed a turning point and after nearly three years, things started moving again. The lethargy, apathy and unwillingness to commit uncertainty brings seemed to be shrugged off and the UK seemed once again, energised, focused and with direction.

Then – WHAM! COVID-19, lockdown happened, and uncertainty was with us again but in a new and unrecognized form. Offices, shops, cinemas, restaurants, factories sent their workers home and closed their doors for the foreseeable future. Many grasped the government’s furlough scheme, a lifeline that meant they could prevent redundancies, at least in the short-to-medium term. The world went home and worked out with Joe Wix, learned to bake, and created Tik Tok videos. And fretted.

ASL took a different approach. Like many other agencies, the majority of our clients closed their doors. Permanent workers and temporary workers alike were sent home. The difference though, was the permanent staff were furloughed, receiving 80% of their wages under the government furlough scheme. Temporary workers did not have the same protection. Many of our temporary workers are highly valued by our clients and have been with them on a long-term basis. We simply didn’t think it was fair to leave them, many of whom have been working with us for years, worrying about how they were going to put food on the table and pay bills.

“We took a careful look at the rules surrounding furlough and determined that where our clients were suspending a temp assignment because of the economic impact of lockdown, and the temporary worker would have their role to return to once lockdown restrictions were lifted, then as an agency, we could furlough our temps. So that’s what we did. We were in a position to help and we wanted to look after them – because people make the difference .” – Jason Perry, Managing Director, ASL Recruitment

In addition, Jason began weekly Facebook Live sessions on Saturday mornings to answer questions workers might have surrounding furlough, sick pay, and an array of other topics surrounding the changed circumstances. Jason is an HR Specialist and Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, so he is well-positioned to offer guidance.

“We were very aware the government was implementing new rules every day and it was difficult for people to keep track of the changes. Many of our workers are Eastern European so English is not their first language, which may make it more challenging for them to keep up with the changes and what they really meant for them. We thought, using Facebook Live, we could help clarify important points so they could better understand what the rules were and what options were open to them. We’ve covered a range of subjects, most recently the requirement for face coverings on public transport and Health & Safety responsibilities. Judging by the number of views and the questions emailed into us these sessions have been very useful to people – we’ve had questions from people based all around East Sussex!” – Jason Perry, ASL

Many small businesses also struggled with the effects of lockdown and the constantly changing rules, regulations, and guidance. As an active member of both the local business community and the recruitment sector, Jason spent time talking to fellow business and agency owners. Hearing their worries and realizing many of them overlapped, he launched a weekly Employer’s COVID-19 Conference Call, providing a forum for worried business owners to air their concerns, ask questions and share ideas and information as to how they were dealing with moving their workers to remote working, processing furlough claims, accessing funding, and managing cashflow.

“I had many conversations with fellow business owners over the first few days of lockdown and it quickly became apparent everyone was feeling a similar level of confusion and pressure, the stress of the situation was getting to everyone. I thought it would be useful to provide a forum where we could all support each other and invited David Ludlow, a senior Employment Law lawyer at Moore Barlow LLP, to join us on the call. This became a useful platform for discussion on a range of issues including most recently, the mental health consequences of returning to work and the new incentives for apprenticeships and traineeships. - Jason Perry

In addition to these activities, we also decided to take a long look at our systems, our website and our branding and decided it was the perfect opportunity to refresh and implement streamlined, and COVID-friendly processes. Our updated branding is live now along with our brand-new website which will make it possible for our candidates to update their profile themselves. Candidates can now register directly on to the website, update their details, their skills and qualifications, upload ID, etc., When a new job is uploaded to the system, skills are cross checked and relevant candidates receive a text message to alert them. Pay slips are accessible through a cloud portal via an app that can be downloaded to any smartphone or tablet and they can view their pay slip history against their account. Timesheets are now electronic, so temporary workers will not have to rely on employers filling out pieces of paper and then having to get them back to the office, instead, it can all be done online.

“As a nation, we’re not out of the woods yet. COVID-19 is going to be with us for a while and who knows what the next few months has in store. Hopefully, with the support structures and new systems we’ve put in place, we can continue to support and serve our community.” – Jason Perry

 

ASL Recruitment was established in 1999 and has been serving Hastings and the surrounding area ever since placing temporary and permanent roles across a variety of sectors including Industrial and Manufacturing, Legal, Finance, Marketing, Technology and Office Support, from junior up to board level. Our co-founder and Managing Director, Jason Perry is a HR specialist and a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. For further information on our recruitment or consultancy services, email hastings@aslgroup.co.uk or call us on 01424 452999.