April 15, 2020


Unless the government gives any specific instructions otherwise tomorrow, we will re-open for business with a temporarily reduced staff on Friday, 17th April at the normal starting times.


Employees will be notified by text, email and/or WhatsApp tomorrow (Thursday, 16th April), whether or not they have been selected to be a part of the initial team. As previously advised, anybody not selected initially will continue to be furloughed, and so will continue to get 80% of their normal pay for the time being. They should certainly not think that we value them any less than we value those that are selected to be part of that first group – the selection will be made based on having the smallest possible group who, between them, has the range of skills that we will need to operate the business.


We will, of course, try to accommodate individual team-members situations if they or someone in their home have received a letter from the NHS confirming that they are in the extremely vulnerable category. Everybody is reminded, though, that the current status of being “on furlough” means that you are still employed and on temporary leave.


Furloughed employees who are called back will be entitled to resume their normal pay for the time they work and will no longer be on furlough. That means that employees who are called back will not be eligible to receive the proportion of normal pay that has been the case for the past few weeks, so it is important that you are present and ready for work at your normal start time on Friday. Returning to work when called back is NOT a voluntary arrangement.


It is likely that we will all need to find new ways of working that will keep everybody as safe as possible while at work. The following are some initial ideas that we must put into place immediately, and we will need to try to incorporate new changes as we discover them.


After Friday, a system of staggered starting and finishing times will be introduced as a temporary measure so that we only have 1 or 2 people in the break room at any time. Again, we will try to fit in with individual employee’s preferences when designating those times.


We will need everybody to treat PPE as a very valuable resource - obviously you all need to be adequately protected but as PPE is likely to be in short supply (and should be provided as a first priority to medical people etc.), it should be used wisely and without waste. I’m sure none of you are normally wasteful anyway, but now is a good time to remind everybody.


It will be necessary to prohibit staff going along the narrow corridor from the factory to the office and vice versa except in an emergency - walking across the car park then communicating through a window is preferable. Whoever is working in the office could also cross the car park and have the rack containing the packed boxes positioned just inside the roller door so they don't need to go too far into the factory to put labels on boxes.


If anyone has concerns about the 2m spacing, we will look at ways to ensure that or create a physical screen to restrict air movement (like a welding screen, for example), but it is important that we don’t create any new hazards or dangerous conditions by doing that. Remember though that current government advice is that “Employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able to follow Public Health England guidelines including, where possible, maintaining a 2 metre distance from others.” This makes it clear that the 2 metre spacing is a recommendation, and not an absolute requirement. The guidance can be found at this link:


https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others/full-guidance-on-staying-at-home-and-away-from-others#going-to-work


Stay safe, and watch for more information tomorrow,


Geoff


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April 10th 2020


First, let me wish you all a happy Easter and say that Maria and I both hope that you and your families are all staying safe and healthy.


We are obviously continuing to monitor the progress of the COVID-19 virus, but we wanted to let you all know that we have been considering how we might be able to re-open the factory whenever we are satisfied that we can do so safely. The safety of our staff, their families and our visitors is the single most important part of the solution, and we aren’t willing to re-open unless we are sure that we can follow government guidelines to keep people safe.


We have looked at different ways to get the business back into operation, and it seems most likely that the procedure would probably be to start with some limited production with approximately half to 2/3rds of our normal staff on site initially, so that we can ensure that people will be able to follow the government guidelines of staying at least 2 metres apart whenever possible. We may need to arrange for some people to start and finish a few minutes earlier or a few minutes later than normal each day so that we can avoid having more than 2 or 3 people in the tea room at the same time, and we would have to ensure that lunchtimes didn’t involve having too many people together in a confined space. We may also need to position screens or take other measures to protect team members if we can’t ensure 2 metre separation.


To re-start like that, it would be necessary to have the right combination of people in place so that every process operation could be performed as efficiently as possible with the fewest people on-site, and the initial team would be selected on that basis. That means that we may be selecting one person rather than another because of the combination of skills they have and the training that they have received. It might also be necessary for people to do jobs that are a little different from the ones that they were doing immediately before we suspended operations, although nobody will be asked to do something that they don’t have the skills and training to do. That would probably mean that individuals with multiple skills could be called back before someone with just one or two areas of expertise.


Once we are open for business again, we will have to continuously evaluate the level of productivity and also the amount of work that comes in. Of course, a lot of our customers are closed or out of work themselves, so it is fairly certain that we will have less work than normal.


Very soon, we will decide what the makeup of that key team will be. Anybody not selected initially will continue to be furloughed, and so would continue to get 80% of their normal pay, and they should certainly not think that we value them any less than we value the ones that are selected to be part of that first group.


No decision has been made about a possible start-up date, but we would aim to give as much notice as possible to anybody that is to be called in to start work. This will not be a voluntary arrangement - the team will be selected as a group and it will be important that everybody who is called back in attends. We will need everybody’s full co-operation during this difficult period, and are confident that we can rely on everybody to do what is asked of them.


As always, if you have any questions or concerns about any of this, especially if you have received a letter from the NHS or your Doctor advising that you are in the “extremely vulnerable” group please contact me in your most convenient way as follows:


Email at gslater@langcourt.com

Phone at 01172 302236

WhatsApp at +1 334 332 2085


If I don’t hear from staff members in the next 4 days (so by Tuesday 14th April) to advise that they are in the “extremely vulnerable” group, I will assume that everybody is available to return to work when called in. We need to know which people are not available so that we can select a team with the necessary skills.


I know that some of the team are having difficulty receiving email, so we will try to contact each person individually by whatever method we can (including text, WhatsApp message, phone, Skype and so on) to notify you individually of the arrangements.  


It is unlikely that the re-start date will be before 17th April, and it might easily be long after that, but please try to stay safe and healthy while you are away from work.




Geoff