A Quick COVID-19 Guide For Employers
Written by Andrew Johnson - Wed 26th Aug 2020
It’s safe to say that we were not ready for COVID-19. I have spent a lot of time over the last few months working with companies who didn’t have a contingency plan in place for this situation and let’s face it: why would they?
No-one could have predicted this. No-one could have predicted that we would be shutting up shop, locking ourselves away and asking an entire workforce to work from home. But it happened, we are here and now we can prepare for the future.
Now we have more of an understanding of what this pandemic means for business, we are in a better position to plan for such things as local lockdowns and workplace outbreaks.
It’s important, as an employer that you plan for the worst, hope for best, protect yourself and your workforce whilst keeping flexibility at the forefront of your agenda.
So, what can you do now to help your employees during these challenging times?
- Update contact information for all staff members. Make sure you have up to date telephone numbers, addresses, email addresses and above all, emergency contact details. It’s very possible that some or all of these details have changed since an employee started with your company.
- Keep your staff up to date with local information and advice. Follow government information and make sure you are communicating regularly with your team.
- Advise your staff of any changes, particularly around local lockdowns at the earliest opportunity. Don’t assume they are keeping up with current news, make sure they have the most recent information.
- Be clear on your policies and procedures. Your staff are likely to need a refresher as they have probably been updated. Make that information accessible and make it compulsory that they read all latest policies.
- Plan for a local lockdown. Make sure your team know what will happen, how you will approach the situation and what they have to do.
- Be aware of mental health issues. This pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another and mental health issues have risen phenomenally. Some of your team will be anxious, depressed, stressed and a whole lot more and you need to have an opendoor policy and allow them to express their feelings and concerns as the situation progresses. Be flexible where you can. The better you can manage your team now, the better the future will look.
What about sick pay and annual leave?
It is important that you review your sickness policy. An employee with COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in contact with someone with symptoms should now self-isolate.
Do you need to change your policy? and could you be more generous when it comes to contractual sick pay?
Make sure your staff are aware of any changes to the policy and any new procedures in place that they may now have to follow.
Your employees are now able to claim SSP from day one of sickness if it’s COVID-19 related.
Your annual leave policy also needs to be reviewed. Consider what will happen if an employee has a holiday booked that is subsequently cancelled. Will you allow them to postpone their annual leave or request that they take it anyway?
You will also need to look at your policy with regards to quarantine if they travel to high risk countries. Will the 14-day quarantine period be taken out of their leave time? Will it be classed as sick and will they be entitled to pay? Ensure your employees are aware of these changes before they go abroad.
You should still be encouraging your staff to take their annual leave where possible. It’s important that people take a break, particularly in extremely stressful times.
Employers are now able to allow up to 4 weeks of unused annual leave to be carried over for the next 2 years.
How do you manage remote working?
Where possible, employees should be working from home. This will minimise the risk of infection in the workplace but as an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure they are supported.
- Review their health and safety arrangements and make sure they are safe from harm.
- Consider whether you need to make any special adjustments for more vulnerable team members.
- Make sure they have appropriate technology to use.
- Where it’s not possible for staff to work from home, consider all possible solutions for minimising the risk of spread in the workplace.
There’s no denying it’s a bit of a minefield but by taking these simple steps, you will be better prepared for any future outbreaks.
Always on the end of the phone if you need advice.