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EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level policy measures

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

Siemens Healthineers: Company supports staff volunteering at the National Health Service

Siemens Healthineers

Country United Kingdom , applies nationwide
Time period Open ended, started on 24 March 2020
Context COVID-19
Type Company practices
Category 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)

Background information

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.

Content of measure

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.

Use of measure

It applies to the UK workforce, some 2,200 workers.

Contents

  • Health and safety
  • Leave arrangements
  • Working time flexibility

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Applies to all workers Does not apply to businesses Applies to all 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

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.

Views and reactions

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.

Sectors and occupations

    • 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.

Sources

  • 21 April 2020: People Management (2020) How are people teams responding to coronavirus? ...Siemens Healthineers (www.peoplemanagement.co.uk)
  • 01 July 2020: Siemens Healthineers (2020) The role of Siemens Healthineers in the COVID-19 pandemic Developing solutions and supporting clinical settings (www.siemens-healthineers.com)

Citation

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.