With the UK Government’s recent update on plans to cope with a potential increase in the spread of the coronavirus, it’s important for companies to be preparing for further challenges and impacts as a result. To date the UK has been fortunate compared to some other countries, but with so many people travelling globally for work and leisure, we can’t assume that will continue. The old maxim “hope for the best, and plan for the worst” seems especially appropriate now.
If the spread of COVID-19 continues to rise, employers face potentially serious staff and skills shortages. The wiser ones will be making contingency plans already, to try to maintain production and/or service levels.
As we have all seen in the press over the past few weeks, a number of organisations have already instructed their workforce to adjust their working arrangement in order to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.
STEPS HR SHOULD BE TAKING
1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
By ensuring your colleagues are kept informed about the latest advice from the various health authorities about personal hygiene, typical early symptoms and any updates to high-risk destinations, you can increase awareness.
2. Embrace technology to update employees with advice and information
Empower your employees by utilising self-service technology, such as your HR system’s Employee Self-service module or the company intranet. Using these tools will not only keep your employees informed, but also serve to reduce the amount of physical contact (and therefore the risk of further spread) required for answering questions. This is especially important at a time when employees and workers are likely to have many questions around their entitlements with regard to areas such as sick pay, the implication of self-isolation on their salary and the practicality of working from home.
3. Collaborate with management
Work with management to identify areas of the business that would be most adversely affected by an increase in employees becoming unable to attend their place of work. Investigate what contingency plans might be realistic.
4. Clarify and explain your company’s position on work attendance
Inform your employees about the options available to them that might help minimise the spread of COVID-19. In cases where remote working is a practical option, decide whether that’s something you want to proactively encourage. Where it’s not, how best can you minimise the risk to those employees whose jobs demand their physical attendance?
5. Clarify and explain your company’s position on sick pay entitlement
There are several reasons why this is important – partly because I’ve seen several questions elsewhere along the lines of “do I still have to pay my employees if they self-isolate?”. It’s also important for employees to understand how it affects them. One of the big risks is from employees who may have been exposed to or even show the initial symptoms of the virus, continuing to come to work because they can’t afford to lose the money.
Boris Johnson has just announced the introduction of Emergency Legislation to deal with the outbreak. This entitles employees to statutory sick pay (SSP) “from the very first day” they are signed off, for the duration of the epidemic. Current UK laws dictate workers are not entitled to minimum SSP of £94.25 a week until they have taken four or more days in a row off work.
There’s an excellent explanation of the legal position around the various possible scenarios from ACAS
If you’re looking for other resources, there’s a dedicated page on the Knowledge Centre at HR & Payroll experts Moorepay
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