In response to the threat from COVID-19, Kieran Harding, Managing Director, Business in the Community Northern Ireland, says: “During 2020, the resilience of the economy in Northern Ireland, the UK and the rest of the world will be tested like never before.
In response to the threat from COVID-19, Kieran Harding, Managing Director, Business in the Community Northern Ireland, says:
“During 2020, the resilience of the economy in Northern Ireland, the UK and the rest of the world will be tested like never before.
“Businesses, public bodies, community groups and the voluntary sector are having to rapidly get to grips with an uncertain and changing economic landscape and, with attention focused on core business needs, cashflow, job stability and even organisational survival, our behaviours and practices will be tested like never before.
“Business in the Community was founded in response to a crisis, and we are already rising to this one. Our team has moved to a digital working environment and are actively collaborating with government and convening businesses to act across Northern Ireland. More than ever, our communities need businesses to support them. As a beacon of responsible business, we will make that happen.
“We are more determined than ever to support our members to hold fast to the principles of responsible business. It is encouraging to see so many of you doing just that. We must pay tribute to those members who are working on the frontline in providing critical health care and to those in the retail sector as they too are providing essential services as the situation progresses. Many other businesses are looking for innovative solutions to help both the public and their own employees. Every responsible action is vital!
“It’s imperative at this time that businesses bolster their duty of care towards employees and consider how they can change their approach to supporting their communities, rather than put it on the back burner until the crisis passes. Employers should look, not just at their legal and moral imperatives, but at the need to address emerging community needs and the longer-term opportunity to significantly enhance staff loyalty.
“Events are changing by the day and employees may be feeling anxious and uncertain about many aspects of their work and personal lives, and one area that must be given priority is providing crystal-clear communication at every stage.
“Businesses need to be completely transparent with their staff about the decisions they are making as part of their management of the pandemic and, as well as accommodating the needs of employees who are at higher risk of contracting the virus, they need to be aware of the toll COVID-19 and its impacts as well as impacting on the mental wellbeing of all employees.
“There are steps that businesses can take to make a difficult time a little easier for staff. Making employees aware of mental health first aiders, promoting employee assistance programmes and suggesting other practical measures to help develop resilience is a good first step to making sure that support is not only provided but accessible, too. Remaining connected digitally is already proving to be a lifeline for many, with an increasing number of employers moving to a ‘working from home’ model where possible but we must be mindful of the additional challenges this brings.
“Businesses also need to consider their responsibility toward their wider stakeholders and the communities where they operate. It is important to continue to support suppliers where possible and follow through with outstanding payments in a timely manner. Without this cashflow, smaller businesses may be relying on reducing reserves hoping it will see them through to the other side of the crisis.
“Community organisations, charities and the voluntary sector are also being significantly affected through a number of factors including a reduction of income and a step down in the level of support from volunteers. Business in the Community will be working with its member organisations to navigate the challenges brought by COVID-19 to ensure these organisations are able to continue their invaluable work.
“As we work together to take action on the biggest public health issue of our time, please be assured of our very best wishes and support, wherever needed. Look after yourselves, your teams and your loved ones.”