As we have now entered a formally less restrictive phase of Covid management, I would like to provide you with an update on our Group’s ongoing response and hopefully provide some clarity and assurance.
‘Freedom Day’, as it is being coined has arrived and as might have been expected, it has split people into two clear camps. One tending towards relief that the restrictions are being lifted, and the other that it is simply too early to be making this move.
This new ‘less is more’ approach from Government is proving to be disconcerting for many and it does leave us, as a major employer, with some new decisions to make.
Together, over the past 16 months of this pandemic, we have remained in line with Government guidance, successfully responding to every update, while ensuring that our services have been largely maintained and keeping our staff safe, and our clients and communities well-served.
So where do we sit across Norse Group now?
Firstly, as a business supporting more than 9,000 staff, we take our ongoing duty of care very seriously. We fully intend to continue to help our staff remain as Covid-secure as reasonably possible, and to be confident that they can be assured of a safe workplace.
Slowly but surely – and with a weather eye on how coronavirus infection rates rise or fall in our communities – we will also keep moving our businesses forward into a place where Covid ‘security’ is locally managed, based on localised risk assessments. All of this will, as always, be fully supported by centralised support services, led by SHEQ and HR.
Today, we see no need to significantly change our current working practices and we will be advising Operations Directors and managers to keep all the current fundamental safety measures in place.
Erring on the side of caution, for the safety of our staff, customers and communities has to be the most pragmatic and practical approach to take.
This gives us time to see how infection rates respond and any wider impacts develop from the lessening of restrictions in our communities. We’re all hearing, for example, about an anticipated ‘Ping-Demic’ if numbers continue to rise and people are ‘pinged’ by the NHS App and must self-isolate.
So, we ask that in our workspaces you continue to temperature check, provide sanitisers, keep numbers at a minimum in shared spaces, 1 metre socially distance wherever possible, masks on when in tenants’ homes or working in our kitchens, and so on.
We also fully understand that is some areas there may be push back from the communities we serve, and people may challenge our approach. Some staff may even feel that maintaining these precautions is unfair or ‘not the law’.
We are more than prepared to support you in managing this as I think we’d all agree that, as a Group, we are always more than happy to be challenged on taking the safest approach, in the best interests of our staff and services.
In the meantime, our Incident Management Team remains active, ready to respond as necessary. Our SHEQ Team remains at the end of the phone to help you navigate any local issues and to offer advice you need on locally based risk assessments and reviews. HR business partners are there too to discuss any individual staff issues.
And business contingency plans remain in place to manage any rise in colleagues testing positive so that essential services remain up and running.
The next few weeks will be a time of watch and wait and we ask that, while enjoying your well-earned summer and more freedoms while out an about, you do not take any unnecessary risks within the workplace.
We have still only seen a reported infection rate of 282 people out of more than 9,000 staff, since the beginning of the pandemic and your continued cooperation is what has stood our business in good stead so far, so please, keep up the good work.
As always, for our part, Norse Group will continue to do all we can to protect jobs and to offer the safest possible workplace.
Thank you for everything you have done so far, best wishes to you and your family during these challenging times and please, stay safe.
CEO Norse Group