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Businesses expect bumps in the road back to work, Schofield Sweeney survey reveals

Published 11th Mar 2021 by Emma Sinfield

A survey by law firm Schofield Sweeney reveals that almost 1-in-6 organisations expect to have staff who refuse to return to work after the Covid-19 pandemic, yet 90% have not developed any policies to deal with this.

  • Some staff expected to stay away from the workplace
  • Mental health concerns also on the rise

In a worrying sign of the wider social impact of the pandemic, around 7-in-10 employers (69%) also expect their employee’s mental health to have suffered during the crisis.

Schofield Sweeney’s ‘Covid-19: The vaccination challenge and returning to work safely' survey captures the views of senior leaders from businesses, schools and charities at one of the most critical phases of the pandemic – getting people back to work.

Other key findings included:

  • 55% of respondents said they didn’t know if they had any employees who were unable to have the vaccination on health grounds
  • over 60% hadn’t made and didn’t intend to make any adjustments for unvaccinated staff or those unwilling to return
  • 39% had amended or introduced new health and safety policies specifically to deal with mental health

Despite the gloomy headlines in recent months, however, the survey shows that many organisations have shown remarkable resilience in adapting to the challenging situation, with 71% of respondents able to operate fully during the crisis as they were either unaffected by lockdown, adapted workplace procedures or implemented a work-from-home policy. Many will now will be conducting or have planned a health survey of their employees.

Simon Shepherd, head of the Employment team at Schofield Sweeney, comments:
“As part of a health questionnaire, an organisation might ask an employee if they’ve had the vaccine or will have it, but it’s tricky to ask why they are not having it. An employer would need a good reason to ask this question and it will depend on the sector and nature of the work undertaken.”

Craig Burman, head of the Environmental and Regulatory team at Schofield Sweeney, said: “Employers will have to keep clinically vulnerable staff safe as we return to normal and social distancing measures are relaxed.Those unvaccinated staff who remain at a high risk from the virus will need all reasonably practicable measures to keep themsafe, and this will also extend to staff who live with clinically vulnerable family members.”


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