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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-2020-13/1518 – measures in United Kingdom

'Better Food': Response to the Pandemic

'Better Food' - Response to the Pandemic

Country United Kingdom , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 24 March 2020
Context COVID-19
Type Company practices
Category Protection of workers, adaptation of workplace
– Well-being of workers
Author Claire Evans (Warwick University) and Eurofound
Measure added 01 December 2020 (updated 04 February 2021)

Background information

The case focuses on the response to the pandemic and associated lockdown of an independent food retailer/cafeteria, which specialises in the sale of organic, local and ethically sourced food and products. Better Food is based in the city of Bristol in the south-west of England. Its stores and cafes are located on three sites in the city and the company employees more than 120 people across these sites.

Content of measure

The cafeteria side of the business closed as part of the UK's lockdown measures, but the food stores remained open, given their status as essential retail outlets. At the beginning of the lockdown, around 20 staff were off work, due to illness, the need to self-isolate and/or care for family members (this increased to 40 at one point). The HR head and management team all worked on the shopfloor, so as to ensure staff cover for each shift. Communication across the three sites was deemed essential and thus, in addition to the online HR system which sends staff communication to employees' personal email addresses, HR implemented a 'flash' meeting system, short two to five minute meetings at the start of shifts to share updates, including on health and safety.

Given the café closures, staff were redeployed across the stores and temporary staff were sought to fill gaps and cover staff sickness. HR advertised on the company website and in-stores and 100 applications were received in three days. A streamlined selection process was used so as to get new staff inducted and in place within seven days.

At the outset, any high-risk employees were placed on paid leave. Moreover, the company changed its sick pay scheme so as to accommodate absences caused by the virus, whether physical illness or mental ill-health exacerbated by the pandemic. The company removed its initial nine-month waiting period, so that all workers could get a minimum of two weeks' paid sick leave.

To further support employees' mental well being, HR worked to publicise the well being benefits and employee assistance programmes provided through Better Food's partnership with the charity retailTRUST. HR also kept in constant communication with all staff who were self-isolating, putting together and delivering care packages as well as compiling lists of Netflix recommendations.

Use of measure

This is a company initiative and the company is a relatively small business, which has three locations in the city of Bristol. Thus, the number of workers covered is confined to those employed in the business - 120 workers.

Contents

  • Health and safety
  • Solidarity
  • Work organisation

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
The COVID-19 risk group at the workplace
Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
Company / Companies
Companies
Employer

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 measure as response to the virus and the subsequent lockdown and thus, there was no involvement of the social partners in design, monitoring or implementation.

Views and reactions

This is the good practice of a small firm; there is no public reaction/expression of views on it. However, given that the firm was supportive of staff and goes beyond policy recommendations, it can be assumed that there would be support for such measures.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      G - Wholesale And Retail Trade; Repair Of Motor Vehicles And Motorcycles G47 Retail trade, except of motor vehicles and motorcycles

This case is not occupation-specific.

Sources

Citation

Eurofound (2020), 'Better Food': Response to the Pandemic, measure GB-2020-13/1518 (measures in United Kingdom), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/GB-2020-13_1518.html

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