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Deborah Hartung

Personify Change

SPARKFluencer: Sparking Ideas Influencing Change

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Navigating the Autumn Statement changes: Practical advice for HR professionals

Practical advice for HR professionals to adapt swiftly to Autumn Statement changes.
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While macro-economic factors lie beyond our control, as HR leaders, we possess the agency to fortify our strategies and prepare our people and organisations for the reverberations of government policy decisions. Although the tidal wave of changes relates to fiscal policies, our focus – as always – has to remain on the human narrative. We have to consider the impacts of the changes on individuals and their families, as these will undoubtedly impact morale, performance and employee engagement.

Impact analysis and mitigating measures

Let’s look at how some of the proposed changes in childcare provisions, disability benefits, unemployment and healthcare, specifically, are likely to impact people and organisations, and what practical steps you can take to prepare for the impact.

Talent acquisition and retention

The talent landscape has been under significant pressure since the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to increased global trends in employees wanting more flexibility in how and where work is done, we have also seen an exodus of women from the workplace.

Women are more likely to assume the role of caregiver – be it for an elderly relative or for a young child. The 2022 Working Families Index highlighted that 70% of parents said they would need to consider childcare options before applying for a new job or promotion.

Challenges in finding affordable, available childcare has a major impact on whether working families – especially those in lower income brackets – are able to survive financially. The 2023 Working Families Index indicated that 40% of lower earning parents had gone into debt to pay for childcare, meaning that families who are already barely getting by are effectively having to pay to go to work. 

These challenges faced by many families have not been addressed in the Autumn Statement, leaving many understandably frustrated by persistent lack of support

On the flipside, proposed changes to retirement savings could be viewed with some relief, but be ready for candidates to ask questions about what pension benefits your company offers and what options they have for remaining with their current provider. 

Our recommendations:

  • Prioritise retirement planning and pension fund benefits and investigate the options available to your company and employees. Find flexible solution providers and negotiate various different options, depending on life stage and career level 
  • Investigate offering childcare benefits or offering all employees a fixed monthly amount in respect of ‘family care and welfare’ that can be used towards paying the astronomical costs of caring for loved ones
  • Consider introducing on-site daycare facilities and offering facilities for older children to do homework or learn coding and other skills. It’s a game-changer and a very attractive benefit that will significantly augment your employee value proposition. With more people working remotely, most companies have some extra office space that could easily be transformed and the costs would be negligible when compared to the ROI from improved productivity and reduced absenteeism

Even if we are doing right by our employees, they may still be shouldering the burden for friends and loved ones who are impacted by proposed changes to benefits and taxes.

Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB)

The changes to disability benefits means an estimated 370,000 people with disabilities and chronic health conditions will lose out on £5,000 a year and be forced to find work.

This news may understandably leave both your colleagues with disabilities and those in the wider community feeling vilified – and this must be carefully considered.

Another group feeling alienated will be working parents (primarily, women) who, as mentioned above, are chronically under supported.

It’s imperative that employers acknowledge these feelings and look to offer the support needed for affected groups, otherwise the impact on wellbeing, and therefore innovation and growth, could be catastrophic.

Our recommendations:

  • Continue to educate everyone about diversity, equity and inclusion. Disability does not equate to inability, unwillingness or ‘laziness’
  • Eliminate barriers to DEIB in job ads, recruitment practices and workplace policies
  • Create an extensive list of accommodations that can be made, so that employees don’t have to ask or face managerial ignorance
  • Get creative with flexible working arrangements
  • Consider hiring older people back to work on reduced, flexible hours 
  • Prioritise DEIB by adding quantitative or qualitative targets to manager performance metrics

Employee wellbeing

Even if we are doing right by our employees, they may still be shouldering the burden for friends and loved ones who are impacted by proposed changes to benefits and taxes.

Impacts on employee wellbeing and mental health might not be immediately evident. Morale and productivity might decline as a result of external pressures. 

With no announcements relating to measures to reduce NHS waiting times or assisting the NHS with challenges relating to staffing and digital transformation, we can expect to see increased absenteeism and even employee turnover.

This is an especially tricky area to navigate, as many employees fear discrimination if they disclose chronic health conditions and/or disabilities.

Our recommendations:

  • Invest in ‘employee listening’ and obtain regular input and feedback from employees to gauge their state of mind and their sources of stress 
  • Upskill all your managers in how to conduct effective ‘check-in conversations’, to encourage open and honest dialogue and identify potential challenges instead of losing employees to competitors
  • Prioritise learning and development for the entire organisation and specifically look into reskilling, mentoring and reverse mentoring for employees, based on their career growth objectives (which might be different from a typical career path) 
  • Encourage flexibility in how and where work is performed and upskill managers in leading remote and hybrid teams and ongoing performance management, to reduce their anxiety around perceived changes to productivity or profitability
  • Continue to invest in wellbeing initiatives and investigate preventative healthcare screenings and measures to assist employees.

There’s no doubt that where the government is falling short, it is the responsibility of employers to step up and protect the wellbeing and inclusion of ALL employees.

By remaining flexible in our thinking, we can embrace the changes laid out in the Autumn Statement as opportunities to invest more in our people and actively build a brighter future of work. 

Author Profile Picture
Deborah Hartung

SPARKFluencer: Sparking Ideas Influencing Change

Read more from Deborah Hartung
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