Generalist HR Forum – Covid-19 | Thursday 9th April

  • Thought Leadership

In response to the Covid-19 Health and Developing Economic Crisis FWB Park Brown (FWB PB) is working closely with the Scottish HR Leadership Group to provide constructive support which also includes discussion forums and Q & As.

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On Thursday 9th April, Alix Meekison hosted two HR Generalist forums, bringing together HR professionals across a broad range of industry sectors. The forum aims to enable connectivity and knowledge sharing across the HR discipline, as businesses navigate through a number of people related challenges throughout this period. The discussion covered a diverse range of topics, some of which will be explored in greater detail during our upcoming Specialist HR forums. These included:

Furloughed Workers

The majority of participants had already taken the decision to furlough a selection of employees, whilst others were anticipating that this action would be taken shortly based on a reduction in activity. Whilst a handful of employers have topped up furlough pay to 100%, the majority of businesses were not subsidising beyond the 80% level. The national living wage increase this month to £8.72 was also highlighted, as many businesses will be required to cover the shortfall from April onwards.

Many participants still lacked clarity on some elements of the scheme, largely relating to the impact on sickness pay, annual leave entitlement and whether employees can get a second job whilst on retention. Though some of these questions have now been clarified by HMRC, it is clear that the communication around the scheme has been challenging to keep up with and the pace of change for many businesses is rapid. Many organisations have taken an independent stance on these issues, being guided by internal policy. For example, some participants already had information regarding second jobs included within their employment contracts and were continuing to uphold any agreements around this for furloughed workers.

Key to the discussion around furlough was the importance of internal communications. All participants were concerned with continuing to keep furloughed workers updated during this period even though they cannot actively work for the business. Participants within the tertiary sector also shared useful internal communications resources for the volunteering community, including Go Assemble, to ensure they continue to feel engaged.

The timeline for the furlough scheme portal opening has also been confirmed for the 20th of April, with the expectation that applications will be processed quickly and payments will be received by the end of the month.

Health & Wellbeing

Internal communications around health & wellbeing were considered high on the agenda by many participants. Now that the majority of businesses and employees have adapted to the new working from home arrangements, organisations are moving towards maintaining the wellbeing of staff and keeping people engaged. The separation between work and life is blurred at the moment as a result of more people working from home, and this may have a significant impact on employees’ mental state.

Various initiatives were discussed including frequent health & wellbeing pulse/nudges which keep employees motivated and engagement high, and ‘on the sofa’ meetings via Zoom. Employees can join a relaxed call facilitated by an internal mental health champion (where suitable). The aim is to encourage discussion around non-work related matters as well as any challenges colleagues may be facing, keeping mental health champions visible as well as checking in on how staff are feeling.

Mental health champions may be leaned on more so during this period, and it was noted that colleagues may be experiencing anxiety outside of Covid-19.  Many families will be impacted by the changing landscape of healthcare priorities, from minor appointment cancellations or delays to consultations and surgeries. Participants shared external resources they have utilised which provide support for mental health at work, including Able Futures, which is funded by the Department of Work & Pensions.

Internal communication generally appears to be vital and many organisations are utilising the platforms they have available to keep in frequent contact with employees.


Bereavement has been a consistent topic during our HR forums, with more and more participants seeking advice on this. Though the majority of businesses have policies in place with respect to bereavement and death in service, there is a recognition that they may come into action more regularly than they have previously. As such, many organisations are reviewing these policies to ensure that their process is as easy as possible for employees/families to go through. It was also suggested that having materials in place for people managers to access easily will be important, and organisations are actively pulling this information together to ensure managers understand what they may be involved in.

Ensuring employees have access to financial support and ensuring that they are protected from a pensions / will perspective was also a key concern, alongside supporting employees emotionally.

Given the interest in this topic and the evolution of policy in this area FWB Park Brown will be hosting a specialist Bereavement forum as a follow up.

For a downloadable copy of the above article please click here.

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The Scottish HR Leadership Group

Primarily the Scottish HR Leadership Group will focus on the advancement of the profession in Scotland plus have a development and mentoring framework.  Our aim is to ensure an interesting, diverse and experienced group of senior practitioners across all sectors who can develop talent and as business leaders contribute and influence the broader societal agenda.

The purpose of this forum is to allow Senior HR Leaders to share their own experiences and gain further insight, thoughts and ideas and to allow more connectivity within the HR community given the evolving global Covid-19 pandemic.

Summaries of the discussions will be posted on our news section and also on LinkedIn.

For further information about any of these forums please contact us via:
Alix Meekison
Director, FWB Park Brown & Secretary, The Scottish HR Leadership Group
t. +44 (0)131 539 7087

Get in touch

Contact the team at FWB Park Brown to discuss your individual or company requirements, or to discover more about our specialist services.