14 May

Public health, economic effects and returning to work

Thursday, 01:00 p.m. | 1 hr

This webinar from Deloitte covered recent developments around COVID-19 and the easing of lockdown restrictions, specifically in relation to public health, the UK and global economy, talent strategies and the future of work.

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Public Health - Dr Jane Halpin, director, clinical lead, Deloitte UK

Dr Jane Halpin discussed learnings from other countries’ approaches to mitigate the spread of the virus. Specifically she noted those in Germany and Sweden. Germany has implemented a high level of testing, tracking and tracing while Sweden’s strategy included voluntary social distancing measures and no lockdown.

Although these countries have different population numbers and densities, we can compare two distinctly shaped epidemic curves, showing the frequency of new cases over time. In Germany, the curve is similar to a number of other European countries, including the UK, with the rate of increase in cases tailing off. Sweden, on the other hand, shows a steady increase of new cases which continue to rise.

Germany has a lower per capita mortality rate than Sweden, in part possibly reflecting higher rates of testing in the country. Dr Halpin concluded by questioning whether the strategy in Sweden means that the current negative impacts will be offset by the development of higher levels of population immunity or resilience against future outbreaks, and if so, how this might inform wider future policy.

The UK and the global economy - Ian Stewart, partner and chief economist, Deloitte UK

Ian Stewart framed his discussion around the UK labour market and its ability to cope with the enormous economic shock of the pandemic. He said that it is easily forgotten that, pre-COVID-19, the UK seemed to have achieved a feat of remarkably high employment rates and low unemployment, at levels last seen in the early 1970s.

Unemployment had been one of the biggest challenges in the 20th century. In the last 15 to 20 years it is possible to argue that we have become complacent, with very high employment rates thanks to the UK’s flexible and inclusive labour market. After the recovery of the financial crisis, the UK employment rate had grown by 14%. The other feature of the UK’s economy and the narrative that has dominated the media, since the financial crisis, is that there is a problem with returning to work such as after parental leave, weak wage growth and the quality of work.

Reflecting on where we are now, Ian notes the UK has so far contained some of the impact of the crisis on unemployment as the government has created shock absorbers to subsidise employment. The Bank of England is forecasting that UK unemployment will more than double from four to nine percent but then fall again. A central challenge for policymakers is to preserve the jobs of people who were on furlough and universal credit as demand returns and as we see redeployment of the labour force.

A majority of this week’s webinar audience that worked in an office before the lockdown (38.7%), predicted a return to the office will occur in Q4 this year. Consistent with last week, a majority of respondents polled that economic activity will rebound from Q1 2021 (70%).

Talent strategies and opportunities to accelerate the future of work relating to the easing of lockdown restrictions - Richard Coombes, consulting partner, Deloitte UK

Richard Coombes explored the future of work relating to talent strategies and the easing of lockdown restrictions. He began by outlining crisis response strategies in three stages, the first is ‘immediate response’ which includes health, well-being, business continuity and the virtualisation of work. He noted we are now moving to the ‘recovery stage’ where questions arise of how we can emerge stronger. The final stage is ‘thrive’, where we will see businesses taking opportunities to reshape and reimagine the world of work. Richard stressed that as we move into the recovery phase, it will be essential to look at any plans with a future lens.

Richard also remarked on five HR and people operations priorities that businesses will need to consider as they look to the future:

  • Reflect on what has worked, what has been missed in the response and the importance of bringing different and diverse perspectives and voices to the table.
  • Recommit to workforce wellbeing and purpose through a focus on physical, psychological and financial concerns, at home and in the workplace.
  • Re-engage and redeploy the workforce to maximise contribution and potential for rapidly evolving organisational priorities, for example identifying business-critical workers and health and safety for those returning to the office.
  • Rethink work, workforces and workplaces to use the experiences of the COVID-19 responses and the opportunity to accelerate the future of work going forward - how can firms shape their organisations more broadly.
  • Reboot HR and people operations priorities which is driven by the experience businesses want their people to have as we move into a new future.


Richard Coombes

Richard Coombes


Richard Leads the UK HR Transformation Practice and the FS HR Practice. Richard has many years of HR expertise and specializes in architecting and delivering complex HR Transformation programmes and helping organisations get the most from their people. Richard has extensive experience in HR Strategy, HR Shared Services, HR Applications, Service Delivery Model design, HR Outsourcing, and all areas of HR and Talent Management. Richard has experience across all sectors but is currently focusing on FS&I.

Dr Jane Halpin

Dr Jane Halpin


Jane leads Deloitte’s Clinical Team and is a qualified Public Health Medicine clinician. Prior to joining Deloitte in 2015, Jane had over 25 years’ experience in the NHS including roles as a Medical Director, PCT Chief Executive and NHS England Area Director. Since joining Deloitte, Jane has worked on numerous health care engagements for Trusts, health economies and others, spanning operational improvement, clinical strategy, service reconfiguration and health system integration. Jane has a proven track record in effecting strategic change, driving improvement and developing strong and effective teams, organisations and systems.

Ian Stewart

Ian Stewart

Partner and Chief UK Economist

Ian Stewart is a Partner and Chief Economist at Deloitte where he advises Boards and companies on macroeconomics. Ian devised the Deloitte Survey of Chief Financial Officers and writes a popular weekly economics blog, the Monday Briefing. His previous roles include Chief Economist for Europe at Merrill Lynch, Head of Economics in the Conservative Research Department and Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Ian was educated at the London School of Economics.

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Thursday, 14 May 2020 01:00 p.m.
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