HR hot topics — an overview

Throughout May, we are looking at some of the biggest issues currently facing HR and the steps employers can take to respond to them. Ben McCarthy, lead researcher and employment law writer at Croner-i provides an overview for some of the present key issues.

As businesses start to reopen, this is expected to be quite a turbulent time for employers across the country. Continued uncertainty and business insecurity may cause both management and their staff to make decisions that they would not usually face and everyone must be prepared for this.

Recruiting new candidates

As we head out of the pandemic, trends suggest that more people than ever are considering career changes or, at the very least, a change in their role. This could be for a number of reasons but, fundamentally, it is something that companies can seek to take advantage of. This can be done in a number of ways; first by addressing the trends as to what candidates are looking for out in the job market and, second, by addressing company culture and approaches to key issues to determine if changes can be made to attract them.

Retaining staff and flexible working

Following lockdown, there could be a number of reasons why employees are considering leaving a company. With freedoms being restored, they may be taking another look at their choice of career and decide they want to try something different. Alternatively, and perhaps more worryingly for some companies, this decision may come as a result of the actions of their employer in the last 12 months. Staff who were furloughed may worry that their jobs are not as secure as they would like, while others may take issue with the way the company handled the pandemic and what it intends to do going forward. A significant part of this continues to be flexible working.

During the pandemic, many staff may have worked from home and may wish to continue doing so going forward, even if on a part-time basis. Therefore, companies that are determined to get everyone back in on a full-time basis may see a lot of push back from this, potentially leading to staff choosing to look elsewhere for employment. Implementing homeworking on a full-time basis could be tricky for companies, even if they do go down a hybrid working model. We explore what they should think about in more detail here.

For companies in which homeworking is not an option, they may find themselves considering other options to retain staff. This could include honouring bonuses, pay rises or increased opportunities for training and development. In this way, those who may want to leave for new ventures may instead be more tempted to stay if they can expand professionally where they are.

Managing employee conflict

As we head into the next few months, a degree of uncertainty still remains surrounding the pandemic and staff may respond to this in different ways. It is vital that employers are always mindful of the mental health of their staff, and conflict between them could only serve to make their situations even more stressful and upsetting. Staff should be reminded of what amounts to acceptable conduct at work, and steps should be taken if accusations are brought forward. For more details on how to tackle employee conflict at work, please click here.

Annual leave

With both England and Scotland now having announced a new traffic light system that is to be in place to allow people to travel overseas from 17 May, and more coronavirus restrictions being relaxed, employers may see a substantial influx of annual leave requests over the next couple of weeks. Obviously, not everyone should be permitted to take leave at the same time, so employers will need to carefully consider how they manage this. One such option is a “first come, first served” rule, which does not offer any employee favourable treatment.

The company’s approach to staff potentially needing to isolate on their return will also need to be carefully considered and communicated to employees. There is no clear guidance on how companies should manage this, meaning they are free to do what they feel they need to. This could include a further period of unpaid leave or homeworking.

Managing staff when employees leave

As we have discussed above, more people may be considering changing their jobs, meaning that the company may find itself losing valuable members of staff despite efforts to prevent this from occurring. This will cause a number of issues; who is going to pick up their work, will their colleagues start to feel more disillusioned without them and, significantly, is this a sign of problems in your company that need to be addressed?

We will explore these issues, and more, in an upcoming article.


There is no doubt that the next couple of months will be challenging for companies and they need to prepare for it. By taking note of the potential issues now, and planning for how they are going to respond to this, employers can aim to get ahead of the curve as they work towards Covid recovery.