BPE Solicitors look how to support employees affected by conflict in the Ukraine

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Thomas Lattimore BPE

Tom Lattimore from the Employment team at BPE looks at the additional support employees who are affected by the conflict in the Ukraine may need.

Employees may be affected by the Ukraine crisis in all sorts of ways. They may have family or loved ones in the country, or a strong connection to the nation in another way. Employees who are affected will require their employers to be supportive, understanding and accommodating. This article lists five ways in which employers can achieve this.

  1. Be Flexible

One of the simplest, yet most effective ways that an employer can support their workforce is through providing flexibility to their employees who are affected in any way by the ongoing conflict.

Being flexible may mean allowing employees who have family in Ukraine to work from home, or approving annual leave applications more readily, giving them time to contact affected family members and to organise support or relief for them. It may also mean allowing employees to come into the office more, if being surrounded by supportive colleagues would better reduce the stress and anxiety of the affected employee.

Firms may wish to implement or amend their flexible working or compassionate leave policies to help coordinate their approach to dealing with requests from employees. Compassionate leave policies will be useful in allowing employees to take paid or unpaid leave where a close relative is going through a particularly traumatic period. Such policies provide a useful framework in which employees can submit requests and you, as the employer, can review them.

  1. Offer mental health support and workplace adjustments

Even prior to the Ukraine crisis, mental health concerns have been heightened in the workplace, due in part to the impact of the COVID pandemic, the stresses of modern working and the real issue of an inability to ‘switch off’.

The crisis in Ukraine is a new danger to employee wellbeing and affected employees should be offered support over and above what is already available. There are several ways employers can do this, for example through implementing or further investment in employee assistance programmes or through offering independent confidential counselling services. Where a particular employee is severely affected by the conflict, employers may need to turn to specialist occupational health professionals to guide them through the necessary adjustments to support the affected employee back to work.

  1. Encourage your workforce to support aid efforts

Employers across the country, and Europe, are helping to organise and coordinate aid collections to send to Ukraine and other nearby countries dealing with the impact of the war. Not only will aid efforts help on the ground in Ukraine, but they will also improve the workplace culture and boost morale during this difficult time.

  1. Flag useful contacts from your network and signpost to experts

Employers, small or large, often have wide and far-reaching networks so look to utilise those connections to offer support to affected employees. For example, an employee may need to get in touch with an immigration lawyer to speak with them about attempting to move their loved ones to the UK: if employers facilitate the sharing of useful contacts, this could have a meaningful impact in getting people the help they need.

  1. Prepare HR and Line Managers

Another critical step that employers can take to help in these circumstances is to prepare the HR department and Line Managers to deal with the implications of the conflict.

The CIPD has prepared a helpful checklist which can be found here which lists a number of steps that employers should consider taking. The list covers steps including identifying those who may need help; utilising and empowering mental health first aiders in the workplace; reinforcing a zero tolerance of bullying and harassment; and making yourself aware of the statutory or contractual rights available in associated circumstances.

Employers should not feel that it is ‘too late’ to prepare themselves for dealing with the conflict because it has already begun. This is because, unfortunately, there is no end to this war in sight.

These five steps are not exhaustive, and employers should think creatively to assist their employees and alleviate their concerns. However, these measures are a good starting point and employers should seek expert advice where necessary. Our Employment Team at BPE is well-placed to help you navigate through the employment implications of the Ukraine crisis and provide support to the employees who need it.

The CIPD has released/collated some very helpful guidance which can be accessed here:

https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/people/ukraine-crisis#gref

https://www.hr-inform.co.uk/news-article/supporting-staff-affected-by-events-in-ukraine

For more information on this or any other Employment Law matter, contact Tom Lattimore at Thomas.lattimore@bpe.co.uk or call 01242 248476.

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