The unrest currently affecting the capital and various other UK cities is imposing a strain on employers and their staff who volunteer as special constables writes Tim Soare for HR Magazine. Special constables living in the London area – many of them volunteers serving under the Employer Policing Programme (ESP) – received a text message last night (Monday, 8 August) summoning them to report to their stations.Tonight, those who are available to assist the forces already on the ground will undergo a briefing and discover where they will be providing support, one special constable told HR magazine.For some special constables, tonight will be the first of several dealing with rioters and onlookers; the special constable HR magazine spoke to has been summoned for duty over the next five nights. His employer is happy for him to take the time off in support of the police. The daunting task facing these volunteers is shared by their employers, who will have to let employees go in the immediate future and then face the possibility of traumatised and injured staff in the long run. Anne Payne, executive director at employee assistance and wellbeing provider, Validium Group, has highlighted the importance of employers responding positively to the problems of their employees adversely affected by the London riots. The initial response of employers will affect the short- and long-term health of employees, so it is important staff feel concern is being shown, she told HR magazine. Payne said managers would need to implement “logical, step-by-step procedures, in order to help affected staff best”. Crucially, she added, managers would need to take note of staff who are not showing up for work and not keeping in contact. In the current situation, these are the staff who will go most easily unnoticed but who may have the greatest need of help, she said. Under the ESP scheme, a range of businesses both large and small cooperate with the Metropolitan Police in allowing staff time off to fulfil training commitments and work a fortnightly shift. Martin Tiplady, the Met’s former HR director, now HRD at Chameleon People Services, exclusively told HR magazine employers benefit from the capabilities and experience gained by staff as part of their special constable experience. Additionally, employers find it useful and reassuring to have trained police officers onsite. Sainsburys and Dixons are two of a number of businesses participating in the ESP scheme. For many ESP employers, the London riots will constitute the first situation in which the reality of losing staff for several days materialises. The staff concerned will most likely experience their most severe test as special constables to date. Employers will need to provide support to any staff affected by the riots, but especially special constables and will need to adopt appropriate support strategies, or quickly create such strategies if they do not currently exist. Tiplady said employers need “as far as possible to keep to normality”. Under circumstances where individuals have been traumatised, in order for them to return to a state of normality personally, assistance may be required, he added.