Human Resources Consulting Services

COVID-19: What are the HR impacts for companies that must shut down temporarily or completely?

  • Emmanuelle Foisy
By Emmanuelle Foisy Advisor, HR Consulting Services - CRIA
The situation of COVID-19 is unique as it forces companies to adapt quickly. Many decisions will have to be made by business leaders in order to face this pandemic, which is why several HR impacts are expected.

Labour Standards

Undertaking measures such as temporary layoffs to counter the COVID-19 situation has significant impacts on employees. First, it is necessary to plan the workforce according to the company's needs. Second, we must assess the impact of the decisions and plan meetings with employees to provide them with all the necessary information and support.

If an organization needs to downsize, work-sharing may be considered but an application must be made to Service Canada. Recently, the federal government announced new measures regarding the work-sharing program. The temporary special measures extend work-sharing agreements by an additional 38 weeks, lift the mandatory waiting period and relax the requirements of the recovery plan. For more information, please visit: 

https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/corporate/notices/coronavirus.html

If an organization must close its doors completely and the layoff is less than six (6) months, the employer is not required to give written notice and may do so verbally. In this case, it is preferable to appoint a responsible person (manager) who is calm to make the announcement in order to reassure the employees, to adequately communicate the announcement and thus reduce the risk of misunderstanding in this situation.

Psychological

This period of uncertainty can be a source of stress and even anxiety for some people. In order to accompany employees who may be experiencing both professional and personal concerns, transparent and frequent communication will be required, promptly upon announcement of the closure and throughout this temporary situation, which could become precarious for some.

Therefore, an HR committee should be established to ensure continuity in communication with employees. The role of this committee will be to keep employees informed daily of the situation, including measures taken by government authorities that will have an impact on the organization. These communications should be verbal and written to be as clear and precise as possible. It will therefore be essential that each employee has access to the company's communications and that they can be easily reached.

Members of the HR Committee may refer employees to assistance programs such as an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) or a telemedicine platform service if such programs are in place within the company. If such employee assistance solutions are not available, a person in charge of the HR Committee may be responsible for listening to these employees in order to respond to their concerns and refer them to professional services, if necessary.

Retention

With a temporary closure, the possibility that some employees may seek new employment is not excluded. It is more important for organizations to prepare for such a challenge.

Solutions are possible: it is possible to involve employees in certain decisions or to ask their opinion in order to maintain a link with employees during the temporary closure period. They will have a better understanding of the reasons for the decisions made by the HR committee or management and they will feel included and important in the organization.

Even more so, if management decides to take advantage of the temporary closure to make certain improvements within the company, this would be an opportunity for employees to participate in some way, depending on their level of incentive. 

Finally, it is important to stress, throughout this management, that the decisions and communications that will be taken gradually will have to reflect the organizational values present within the organization and, consequently, convey the behaviours to be adopted.

For advice on how to properly manage the current situation related to COVID-19, we invite you to contact our HR consulting services team, which remains on the lookout for you.

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