Managing workforce and clients/customers' health and safety
Implement and follow guidance on containment, delay and mitigation measures issued by Public Health England, the Department of Health & Social Care, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the World Health Organisation as well as other official reports and updates.
Support affected employees by following the most conservative guidance issued by national and international agencies.
Deliver regular updates, across multiple channels, to workforce on domestic and global containment, delay and mitigation guidance and on company health, welfare, sickness and remuneration policies. Ensure your communication plan is able to reliably deliver key messages and regular status updates.
Appoint a senior manager with responsibility for:
- Workplace compliance with agreed policies and procedures
- Communication of any suspected cases of COVID-19 infection amongst the workforce to the relevant heath and public authorities
Where feasible, prioritise flexible/remote working and meeting - ensure sufficient software licences are obtained from software suppliers to enable this.
Where possible, reduce or suspend business travel to designated locations and limit or suspend business visitors to your premises.
Provide anti-bacterial cleansers in common areas and easy access to tissues in common areas.
Conduct a risk assessment for all staff, with particular attention given to pregnant and disabled workers. Make reasonable adjustments, as required, to safeguard vulnerable employees.
Where possible, consider flexible working requests or arrangements, allowing staff to travel out of rush hour.
In customer/client facing situations, consider introducing signage to alert third parties of 'no handshaking'/other preventative policies.
Consider providing masks/gloves (and give appropriate training, where necessary) to employees at higher risk of infection (particularly in predominantly customer facing roles such as in retail, and those working in healthcare/social care).
HR issues (what can employers do, what can't, shouldn't they do)
Employers should be mindful of the duty to provide a safe place of work, and of the duty to maintain trust and confidence with their employees.
Consider enforcing self isolation in circumstances where a worker who may have been exposed to the virus insists on attending work.
Insist on employees following guidelines relating to handwashing and other preventative measures, if necessary by way of disciplinary action (being careful to ensure that such action is taken consistently).
Consider imposing a travel ban, after conducting appropriate consultation, on employees who have indicated that they wish to travel to affected areas on holiday.
Consider how best to prepare for business disruption if key team members are taken ill. For instance, by ensuring that teams are properly briefed on a regular basis and the need for an extensive handover is reduced. Introduce a 'buddy' system if possible and appropriate.
COVID-19 related payroll issues
Statutory Sick Pay is now payable from the first day of sickness absence.
If an employee self isolates on medical advice, they will be entitled to SSP (and any contractual sick pay). Consider relaxing the requirement for the employee to produce a fit note after seven days' absence to alleviate pressure on the healthcare system and avoid unnecessary travel to public spaces.
If an employee self isolates in circumstances where it appears advisable but not necessary, consider paying SSP or full pay.
If the employee insists on attending for work in circumstances where it appears inadvisable for them to do so (other than because they are sick) and the employer instructs them to self isolate, or if the employer does not allow them to attend for work (for example, if it has closed the premises), the employer should continue to pay the employee's full salary.