09 Mar 2022

Employment

Employment Law: What can business leaders do to reduce the impact of The Great Resignation?

With the latest research predicting that nearly a third of UK workers will be looking for a new job this year, our head of employment law, Daniel Wilde, explores what business leaders can do to reduce the impact of “The Great Resignation” and protect their organisations from the negative impact of mass staff departures.

Is The Great Resignation set to continue?

A recent report by Microsoft found that over 40% of workers considered leaving their jobs in 2021, as part of the “great resignation” prompted by the Covid pandemic. This trend now looks set to continue through 2022, with latest data from employee benefits expert Sodexo Engage showing that one in three (32%) UK workers plan on handing in their resignations in the next 12 months. So what can you do to protect your organisation when so many staff decide to leave?

Build and protect your company culture

It’s no surprise that the businesses that have always prioritised staff wellbeing, a healthy work culture, generous rewards and employee recognition are more likely to retain their staff.

However, since the start of the pandemic, even the companies that excel in this area are finding it harder to retain workers, with many employees reassessing their priorities and taking advantage of the wider career opportunities presented by remote working.

When there is a high staff turnover, it is natural for employees to feel unsettled and for morale to dip. It is always worth addressing this head-on, by keeping lines of communication open and reinforcing the company’s values and purpose. This will remind employees of your corporate goals and hopefully detract from other people’s reasons for leaving.

Managing morale and performance

Multiple staff departures can often spiral into bigger issues as the leavers’ negativity can easily rub off on their colleagues, especially if those who are leaving start to put in less effort at work. However, while it might be tempting to ask leavers to finish early or attempt to terminate employment contracts, we would always recommend exercising caution.

Unless there is gross negligence – which is rare – the ACAS Code of Practice recommends giving at least two warnings before dismissing an individual for poor performance. Your employees’ performance should be proactively managed at all times, regardless of whether they are about to leave or not. Have regular, open conversations with leavers to ensure they know exactly what is expected of them during their notice period and to quickly address any concerns before they escalate.

Many organisations fall into the trap of introducing short-term fixes to boost morale when key staff members leave but these are often seen by existing staff members as inauthentic. Instead, businesses need to have a long-term retention strategy that is centred around ensuring the organisation is a genuinely great place to work and gives all staff a clear path to progression and learning and development opportunities.

Safeguarding commercially sensitive information

Another risk to consider from an employment law perspective is that having information and intellectual property walk out of the door with a departing member of staff can prove damaging, particularly if employees are joining a competitor.

Once an employee has resigned, it is sensible to restrict their access to commercially sensitive information to reduce the risk of them taking important data during their notice period. Information and digital audits should be run regularly throughout their notice period and it might also be worth taking a retrospective look at what an employee has accessed prior to resigning, and whether there was a valid work reason for this.

Taking personal data from your employer without consent is a criminal offence so you may also wish to consider other technical measures.  such as prohibiting the use of removable media so that large amounts of data cannot be removed, and setting up IT alerts to monitor large amounts of data being sent via email or being downloaded from networks.

Managing remote resignations

There is no doubt that remote working has created new challenges for business leaders who are facing The Great Resignation, with lots of employees exploiting their increased flexibility to search and apply for new roles during working hours.

Make sure you have an internet and social media policy, governing what an employee can and can’t do during working hours. If an employee is using a work computer during work time for their job search, then this personal use will almost certainly be in breach of company policy, which can trigger a disciplinary.

While such activities may warrant disciplinary action, it is still worth treading carefully. While it might be tempting to bring forward the exit date of a problematic leaver, you should not let their resignation cloud your judgement as you should continue to treat them the same as any other member of staff. Upholding the terms of employment contracts and company policies will offer your business the best protection during the notice period and, where relevant, in the months after the person has left the role.

Our employment law experts are able to offer specialist advice on a wide range of issues. For a confidential conversation, please contact Daniel Wilde on 01633 244233 or email wilded@hevans.com 

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