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-2020-13/1532 – measures in United Kingdom
|Country||United Kingdom , applies nationwide|
|Time period||Open ended, started on 24 March 2020|
Reorientation of business activities
– Transfer or redeployment of workers
|Author||Claire Evans (Warwick University) and Eurofound|
|Measure added||01 December 2020 (updated 04 February 2021)|
Siemens Healthineers manufactures and distributes medical devices in the UK. This includes large MRI scanners, X-ray machines and equipment, which assists in the laboratory testing of blood and urine samples. Siemens Health has a workforce of 2,200 employees in the UK, who work in offices, factories and hospitals across the UK. Its operations have been impacted significantly the coronavirus pandemic; not only has production been affected by increased demand but given the nature of its business (i.e.: healthcare), it has responded to the crisis through sharing expertise on a voluntary basis.
One of Siemens Healthineers’ four factories in the UK builds blood gas analysers, which are used to monitor the oxygen content in a person’s blood. These have obvious utility as part of the portfolio of tests available in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. There was obviously an increased demand for these important pieces of equipment from the start of the pandemic and thus, the organisation had to implement some fairly radical changes in shift patterns. However, this need to ramp up production had to be balanced with keeping a number of factory staff home because of their age or underlying health conditions putting them at increased risk of the virus. Other employees have been understanding, given the nature of the crisis, and have increased their working hours accordingly. The workers stationed in factories were classed as essential workers and continued to travel to work, but most office-based employees transitioned to working at home. Assessing the situation was a big task for the HR team, which organised the fast-tracking of occupational health assessments and identified all workers who were vulnerable, organising for them to shield at home within a day of the risk factors being announced.
Siemens Healthineers does not manufacture ventilators, but the company did produce them around 15 years ago. The firm did not actually build units in response to the government's call for UK manufacturers to produce more of the essential machines via the ‘ventilator challenge’, but Siemens lent its people’s domain expertise. As an accredited medical device manufacturer that formerly produced ventilators, the company supported ventilator manufacturers to increase their output, and offered guidance on health and safety and regulatory requirements.
NHS volunteering With a number of clinically trained staff on the business’s payroll, the organisation had to come up with a creative solution to allow them time off to work in the NHS at no cost to the health service. This was a challenge for the HR team, which ended up creating a special type of annual leave: the company now offers staff trained in disciplines from radiography to biomedical science up to two days a week (for up to 12 weeks) additional paid leave to work for the NHS. This is on the basis that the support is offered without remuneration from the NHS.
It applies to the UK workforce, some 2,200 workers.
|Applies to all workers||Does not apply to businesses||Applies to all citizens|
Company / Companies
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:
Company initiatives and measures derived and implemented by the company, with no involvement by the social partners in design, implementation or monitoring of those measures.
As the firm was directly supporting the NHS and assisting other manufacturers in the production of much-needed ventilators, it can be assumed that such practice would be widely supported. No public evidence of this, however.
|Economic area||Sector (NACE level 2)|
|C - Manufacturing||C28 Manufacture of machinery and equipment n.e.c.|
|Q - Human Health And Social Work Activities||Q86 Human health activities|
This case is not occupation-specific.
Eurofound (2020), Siemens Healthineers: Company supports staff volunteering at the National Health Service, measure GB-2020-13/1532 (measures in United Kingdom), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/GB-2020-13_1532.html
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Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process.