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Eurofound's EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the COVID-19 crisis, the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for measure GB-2020-12/1787 – measures in United Kingdom

Nationwide's job guarantee during the pandemic

Country United Kingdom , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 20 March 2020
Context COVID-19
Type Company practices
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Teleworking arrangements, remote working
Author Claire Evans (Warwick University) and Eurofound
Measure added 10 March 2021 (updated 11 May 2021)

Background information

The background to the case is the coronavirus pandemic in the UK, its effects and this company's response to the series of national lockdowns, which first began in March 2020. The case in question is the Nationwide Building Society, which employs around 18,000 staff in the UK, across numerous locations, encompassing 650 branches, six contact call centres and the organisation's HQ in Swindon.

Content of measure

The organisation's principal priority was ensuring the safety and security of its 18,000 staff across its many branches, contact centres and HQ in Swindon. Whilst 13,000 of those employees were/are able to work from home, its branches constituted an ‘essential’ service and thus, have remained open throughout the pandemic, serving the organisation's millions of customers. As well as putting all the expected measures in place to keep branch staff safe, the staff from the HR department directly consulted with staff, so as to ask them what they felt would make their roles easier . This was found to include allowances for provisions, given that most food outlets were closed in the first lockdown. Those working in contact centres were also provided with free lunches and hot drinks.

In addition, Nationwide also made some significantly larger promises to its staff during COVID. Vulnerable employees with health conditions were told by the CEO not to go into work if they didn’t feel safe doing so. Thus, more than 2,000 people shielded at home for this reason during the first peak of the pandemic.

The organisation also offered a ‘job promise’ to all its staff that their role would be secure until at least the end of 2020. This was an effort to ensure that staff had income security until at least the end of the year.

With changes to business areas already having happened because of COVID, and more afoot in 2021, this has naturally led to new thinking about redeploying staff internally. Nationwide’s ‘flex force’ initiative has intensified redeployment efforts and has underpinned the retraining of employees to allow successful moves to other departments. The Head of HRD at the organisation has said that the pandemic has helped to remove barriers around reskilling and flexible approaches. She argues that managers have accordingly changed their own perceptions around reskilling and redeployment.

The organisation has also turned this new flexible mindset to recruitment, and to thinking as to how its people will work best post-COVID; this has in turn boosted its already considerable efforts around inclusion and diversity. In 2020, the organisation virtually on-boarded and inducted 80 new starters on either apprenticeships, graduate schemes or work placements, who ordinarily would have been required to attend an in-person induction at Swindon. The firm also hired its most recent cohort of contact centre staff completely remotely, so recruits could be based anywhere in the UK and still successfully execute their role. This signals a shift in thinking as to where future employees will be based; the HRD Director states that the organisation will in future be seeking those who can add most value but aren’t necessarily able to come into an office every day.

Also this year, the organisation has invested in its culture programme, aiming to become more diverse and inclusive. Thus, for instance, more than 5,000 staff took part in a series of events to mark Black History Month in October, and the firm has implemented a sponsorship programme to develop underrepresented talent, as well as working on developing its staff diversity networks and giving them the opportunity to feed back to the board. Following comments from these networks, it has also purposefully taken a strong external stance against racism, which reportedly has emboldened employees.

Use of measure

The organisation's 18,000 staff, working across the UK.

Contents

  • Employment retention
  • Telework
  • Training and employability
  • Work organisation

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
Company / Companies
Companies

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role No involvement No involvement
Form Not applicable Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Company level

Involvement

This is a company initiative. It is unknown whether the organisation is unionised; there is no reference to union involvement in the case study material. It is assumed that this is unilateral, managerially-driven action.

Views and reactions

No data; this is a company measure. However, broad support can be assumed, given that the measures are aimed, in part, at providing job and income security during the pandemic.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      K - Financial And Insurance Activities K64 Financial service activities, except insurance and pension funding

This case is not occupation-specific.

Sources

Citation

Eurofound (2021), Nationwide's job guarantee during the pandemic, measure GB-2020-12/1787 (measures in United Kingdom), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/GB-2020-12_1787.html

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