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COVID-19 HR pulse: w/c 4th May

Our weekly news pulse for Human Resources leaders rounds up the latest news and insights impacting people professionals amid the developing COVID-19 pandemic. Quick click to jump to the relevant updates:

Government updates

Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte has confirmed that ‘phase two’ of its lockdown is about to happen - whereby limited economic activity will be allowed. From 4 May take-away restaurants will be allowed to open, and if his proves successful, from 18 May, all shops as well as museums and cultural sites can follow suit. Read more

The Spanish government has published plans to wind-down lockdown measures by the second half of May. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said manufacturing will start opening up from 4 May, with “strategic” businesses, including exporters, being allowed to open next week subject to local authority approval. Read more

The UK government has reportedly ordered 50 million coronavirus immunity tests, which could mean Britons are able work and socialise together by as early as the end of June. Read more

The Australian government has now launched its controversial tracking app, designed to track users who come into close contact with people who have tested positive for coronavirus. Ministers have said using the app is a pre-requisite to swiftly ending lockdown measures. Read more

The French government is to extend help given to self-employed workers and small business owners by doubling financial compensation paid to micro entrepreneurs ‘facing most difficulties’ from €5,000 to €10,000, as well as creating a €110 billion ‘solidarity fund’ from 1st June. Read more

The Philippines government has extended strict lockdown rules in greater Manila and other cities and provinces considered to be at ‘high risk’ from coronavirus for another three weeks at least. Read more

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern claims the country has effectively ‘eliminated’ coronavirus. Despite most people still being required to stay at home, some non-essential business, healthcare and education activity has been given the go-ahead to resume. Read more

With around 25% of employees working from home during the pandemic, the German government is reportedly about to implement a permanent ‘right to work from home’ law, that would allow German staff to decide whether they would like to work from home for part of the week, or full-time, if their job allows. Read more

In Iowa, state officials have ruled that employees will lose their unemployment benefits if they refuse to return to work after their employer has recalled them. Read more

Unions/Association updates

The UN has this week called for the creation of an international agency to oversee sovereign debt relief programmes for developing countries. It comes after EU leaders agreed to establish a recovery fund to rebuild Europe’s economy after the pandemic subsides. Read more

In response to what it calls the “utter disregard” of some employers, The Malaysian Trades Union Congress has urged the government to protect workers from ‘retrenchments, causing wage cuts, and forcing to take compulsory leave under the guide of COVID-19. Read more

The Youth Futures Foundation, The Prince’s Trust, Youth Employment UK and the Institute for Employment Studies, plus 70 other youth charities, have all joined forces to form The Youth Employment Group. The new group will help drive the UK’s response to unemployment amongst young people in the wake of COVID-19. Read more

The German Retail Federation has said it expects 50,000 businesses to become insolvent due to coronavirus. Read more

Corporate HR announcements

Italian restaurant chain, Prezzo, is giving its 3,000 staff access to income streaming services, which enable them to gain early access to their accrued pay, to help staff meet unforeseen costs. Read more

In the UK, fast-food is making a comeback: Burger King, Nandos and Wagamama have all announced plans to reopen - but for drive-thru or delivery-only. McDonalds has said it is also working on opening a limited number of stores. Read more

Transport for London has furloughed the one quarter of its 28,000 staff for whom work has drastically reduced or paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, it has decided to do so on full-pay - adding the additional 20% on top of what the government pays. Read more

Air France-KLM CEO, Ben Smith has bowed to public outcry and government pressure to give up his 2020 bonus after taking billions of euros in state aid. The move follows an initial attempt to just trim his base pay last month. Read more

Fiat Chrysler’s Atessa plant in central Italy, has resumed production - a full week before the country plans to lift is national lockdown. Its 6,000 employees have all been issued with personal safety kits, including face masks, gloves and protective glasses. Read more

Detroit’s car makers (GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler are targeting an 18 May restart date, after talks with United Auto Workers leaders and the Michigan government. Read more