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Ontario employers institute hiring freezes, provide mental health support to workers: HRPA survey

As focus shifts to return-to-work, HR will take centre-stage



More than half of employers in Ontario have instituted hiring freezes, according to a survey of HR professionals.

The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) conducted an online survey of its members, which provided some insight into how organizations are responding to the pandemic.

Speaking on the changes they have experienced to date, HR Professionals said:

  • 40 per cent were able to provide work from home options
  • 34 per cent introduced policies/ expectations about workload for remote workers
  • 48 per cent are providing unique mental health supports
  • 53 per cent have implemented a hiring freeze
  • 52 per cent have changed approaches to onboarding

“With COVID-19, ‘change’ is the new norm for the foreseeable future,” said Louise Taylor Green, the CEO of the Toronto-based HRPA. “I’m struck by how quickly business decision-makers had to move to face the realities of COVID-19 head-on. While many organizations were able to pivot operating norms to keep businesses running, others were faced with the brutal task of reducing hours and staff.”

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“It’s clear we all face immense change with the impending return to work.”

Taylor Green said HR professionals have played a key role in critical decisions at many organizations — tackling things like “technology, workload, communication, issues management and mitigation – these are all amongst the pressing issues of this time.”

Preparing to return to work

The survey results revealed key themes that will be particularly relevant to business as back-to-work planning occurs:

Working from home policies will need to be revisited.  Currently, only 37 per cent of respondents indicate their organization allows working from home (at least some of the time). Often a controversial and unclear policy, COVID-19 has brought it to the forefront of policy considerations.

Organizations will think of ‘essential services’ differently moving forward.  Based on government of Ontario criteria, 75 per cent of respondent companies were deemed to be an essential service.  Organizations will need to better understand their role when considering commitments to employee safety and wellbeing.

Mental health of workers will become a top priority. While many respondents said their organization added mental health supports for employees, 52 per cent have not yet addressed this need, revealing a significant opportunity to improve.

HR Professionals will continue to play a significant role during recovery and rebuilding phases post-COVID-19. Most organization are not currently focusing on updating or modifying existing employee programs so this will require focus over the coming months:

  • 56 per cent have not changed performance management systems
  • 54 per cent have not changed rewards/ compensation benefits
  • 65 per cent have not changed labour/ employment relations

About the HRPA

The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) is the regulatory association of HR Professionals in Ontario with more than 23,000 members and students. Protecting the public interest, HRPA regulates, governs and educates its members and students by setting and enforcing standards of professional HR practice, standards of qualification, professional conduct, ethics and expertise. For more information, visit www.hrpa.ca