As many workplaces start to re-open along with schools and non-essential businesses, the strict lockdown that the UK was faced with in March almost seems like a distant memory at this point.
However, coronavirus is far from over and we are still at risk of increasing case numbers and a second wave as we head into autumn/winter.
The Coronavirus Act 2020 grants the government emergency power to tackle Covid-19 which includes imposing local lockdowns in areas where there is a massive spike in covid cases.
Greater Manchester and Aberdeen have both experienced a varying degree of restrictions as a result, but Leicester has faced the strictest rules including a ban on non-essential travel and the closure of all non-essential shops and businesses.
With the risk of this extent of rules being enforced in your business’ local area, what can employers do to prepare for a local lockdown without putting their business at risk of any further disruption?
Review your pandemic and homeworking policies and plans
The lockdown we faced at the start of the year was unlike anything that we have ever experienced before, and it came at such speed and with very little warning that many businesses were not prepared.
As a result, most workplaces have now put a Pandemic Policy in place for the first time, along with a Homeworking Policy and Risk Assessment, to ensure that they are set should we ever experience anything like this again in the future.
Now would be a great time to assess these policies, as well as the processes that you put in place whilst your premises were closed, to decide what worked well and what didn’t so that you can adjust your plan accordingly.
You can even encourage feedback from your employees so that you know what you could do better if you do find yourself in a local lockdown.
You should have a plan in place for every eventuality as the type of lockdown implemented in your area could vary from a few additional restrictions such as the ‘no mixing of households’ rule in Birmingham to a more extreme lockdown reminiscent of what we experienced in March and April.
If the worst does happen, and businesses have to close again, you should keep in mind that a lot of the government support that was in place earlier this year, such as the furlough scheme, will no longer be available so you will need a strategy on how to manage employees who are unable to work from home, or who may not have enough work to be getting on with during a lockdown situation.
One option could be to layoff workers during this period, if you have a clause in their contract which enables you to do so.
Closely monitor your covid health and safety strategy
In less extreme lockdowns, you might be able to avoid having to close your workplace if it meets the health and safety standards set by the HSE.
This does mean that the HSE will be carrying out unannounced ‘spot checks’ to assess the situation at businesses in the area; hence, it is very important that you closely monitor your covid-secure strategy to ensure that it is following the guidelines and keeping your employees safe.
Some examples would be ensuring that employees are practicing social distancing, that work surfaces and touch points are being cleaned regularly throughout the day, there is clear signage around the premises, PPE is in place where necessary and guests/visitors are being recorded for track and trace purposes.
If you uncertain as to whether your health and safety measures in preventing the spread of covid are effective and in line with HSE guidelines, then our qualified consultants can conduct a Covid Risk Assessment of your business.
This includes a site visit from your dedicated consultant, a thorough report on their findings and continued to support in implementing any appropriate safety measures to keep your employees safe.
How can you cut staff costs
A huge concern for businesses right now is the financial pressure that they are facing as a result of the pandemic and the recession. A second, or local, lockdown would have a detrimental effect on the finances of many businesses especially without the added support of the government such as the furlough scheme.
In order to protect yourself, you should consider ways in which to reduce staff costs over the coming months:
- Reduce staff working hours, where possible, if said employees are on a flexible contract of employment, or if they agree to the changes
- If you have layoff or short time working clauses in your employee contracts then you can enforce this
- Implement a recruitment or pay increase freeze across the company which means that you will not be recruiting or promoting employees for a certain period of time
- Where there are no other options, you can make staff redundant if you follow a fair process and make a strong case for this decision
If you require any support in introducing any of the above changes into the workplace to help manage business costs, then ensure that you seek the advice and support of a qualified professional.
Our HR consultants can advise you on how to remain compliant with current employment laws, answer any queries you may have and even write up bespoke documentation, such as redundancy letters, on your behalf so that the pressure and added work is no longer in your hands.
How Guardian Support can help
The most effective way to prepare for any situation that will massively impact your business is to have access to support and advice from a qualified expert.
At Guardian Support, we can provide your business with a dedicated HR and Health and Safety Consultant who will always be on the other end of the phone when you need them.
Our consultants can conduct risk assessments, write up policies and contracts, and offer bespoke advice to ensure that your business is safe, compliant and as uninterrupted as possible during challenging times.
Don’t worry about facing a local lockdown alone – we’re here to help you and your business!
Call us today on 0845 2626 260 to learn more