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HR professionals respond to easing of restrictions Thursday April 29, 2021

Mental health support for employees has been put in the spotlight by HR professionals as the light rail sector plans for post-pandemic recovery.

As more people return to the nation’s tramways following the easing of restrictions, the ongoing impact of Covid-19 again proved the hot topic of conversation at the latest meeting of the UKTram HR Group.

Representatives from NET, West Midlands Metro, Edinburgh Trams, Sheffield Supertram, Manchester Metrolink, London Trams and Blackpool Transport also heard how operators were adjusting to new ways of working as they ramp up service levels.

Jamie Swift, UKTram Marketing and Commercial Manager, explained: “Covid-19 continued to dominate the meeting agenda, with lengthy discussion on regular staff testing, the vaccine rollout and managing the return of colleagues who have been on furlough or shielding for health reasons.

“While the numbers of staff self-isolating dropped in recent weeks, employees now seem more cautious about attending work if they are ill with other symptoms, making new home Covid-testing kits a useful addition.

“Mental health support for staff was also highlighted – not only for staff that have not been in the workplace, but for those who have worked through some challenging times and finding they now need help.”

Recruitment was also a key topic of discussion at the meeting, with a number of operators looking to replace those who have left over the last 12 months.

Members of the group reported an indifferent job market, with applications for some vacancies above expectations. But it is proving more difficult to identify suitable candidates for more specialist roles, such as those in engineering.

Operators have also had to change their recruitment processes due to restrictions with a move to online testing and interviews. Training courses have been adapted to involve fewer staff and hotel conference facilities utilised for group inductions and lesson-based training to ensure social distancing.

Jamie added: “Once again it was great to see how the sector is constantly adapting working processes to ensure recruitment needs can be met whilst adhering to Covid guidance. As customer demand increases and lockdown restrictions ease, operators are clearly gearing up to run more services while ensuring the safety of both customers and employees.”