This post originally appeared on ISE: Insights on the 6th January. In it is discuss what the third national lockdown in less than a year means for student employers?
On Monday night we were all treated to a new announcement from Boris Johnson. We are now in a national lockdown which looks set to last for at least six weeks and may be extended still longer. The guidance that has been released so far is pretty high level but will mainly be familiar to all of us from previous lockdowns.
Social media has been buzzing with complaints, protests and tips about the new lockdown. Joe Wicks has announced that he is bringing back PE with Joe, home schooling is underway in houses across the country and people are reaching to the back of their fridge to find that old sourdough starter. But, what does mean for student employers?
What the guidance says
The basic rules for the new lockdown are essentially the same as for the November lockdown, with the additional element of shutting schools and ending on campus teaching in universities. Essentially the message is ‘stay at home’ unless you must go out. Employers are urged to get staff to work at home, if this is possible.
Some details in the new guidance that may be of interest to student employers include:
- Employers have a duty to facilitate homeworking where possible. This includes providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working.
- Schools, colleges and universities will be moving the bulk of their teaching and activities online.
- The GCSEs and A level exams will not go ahead and it is unclear at the present time as to what will be put in their place (but in all likelihood, arrangements will be made that allow students to receive a grade).
- There are a range of financial support arrangements available to businesses.
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) is still open until 30 April.
- Employees can claim financial support if they are off work due to Covid or Covid-related issues.
- Non-essential retail, hospitality, accommodation, leisure and sports, entertainment, animal attractions, personal care and community centres and halls are all closed throughout the lockdown.
The impact of this lockdown is going to go beyond the exact things that the guidance allows or prohibits. For student employers, the following three issues are likely to be important.
Recruitment and development activities will continue to be disrupted and need to be delivered online
As we’ve been discussing on ISE:Insights and in our research, webinars and town halls for the last year, the pandemic and the lockdowns have forced student employers to radically rethink the way that they do attraction, selection, onboarding and development.
In many ways the new lockdown does nothing to change this. But, it does mean that any plans that people had for a return to ‘normal’ will have to be put on hold until at least the middle of February.
In reality, the whole of spring 2021 is likely to be conducted under some kind of restrictions and employers are likely to be cautious about what they plan for summer 2021.
The education system is in short-, medium- and long-term crisis
In the short-term, teaching and career support at all levels of the education system are being moved back online. This is going to be disruptive to both what young people are learning and to any efforts that employers are making to engage with the education system.
In the medium-term, the disruption of the last year means that summer exams will not be taking place as usual. Hopefully a way to award qualifications will be found, but this will be much more of recognition of potential than of learning.
In the long-term, children will be playing catch up for years. All of these issue present potential problems for employers in finding the kind of quality of hires that they need (just imagine that everyone you hire has had 1-2 years less training in mathematics and English than at present).
The economy and the labour market are in crisis
Recent economic forecasts have not been good. Unemployment is rising and many businesses are hanging on by a thread. So far government support has prevented catastrophe, but unless this is ramped up the overall business situation is likely to continue to deteriorate. Even if the economy is successfully kept on ice, there is a danger that the managed short-term cooling of the economy becomes more structural.
For student employers, this is likely to create problems in their businesses. So far, the economic crises have been very sectoral and concentrated on retail, hospitality and similar sectors. The next few weeks are going to be critical both for these sectors and for the wider economy. Hopefully the government will be able to prevent the recession from spreading out from these sectors.
Meanwhile the number of experienced hires who are on the jobs market is going to keep growing. Whether the existence of this pool of experienced labour will impact on early careers recruitment remains to be seen.
There are lots of issues emerging from the new lockdown. We remain cursed to live in ‘interesting times’ and it seems that every day makes things a little more interesting. At ISE we’ll be trying our best to make sense of the implications of all of this for student employment.
Brace yourselves for a bumpy ride!