HR Advice on Managing the Coronavirus Outbreak in the Workplace

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    As a HR consultancy, it would be remiss of us not to provide an overview of how coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting, and may affect, workplaces within the realm of HR and Employment Law.

    As the number of deaths in the UK rises to 5*, and the confirmed number of cases now at 319*, it’s important to have an action plan in place should someone in your workplace show any signs of infection.

    You should also know how to deal with a pandemic in the workplace, from a health and safety aspect too, we can provide you with a Pandemic Outbreak Policy as well as continued support and advice should you need it, with our Health and Safety Services.

    You can also sign up to our HR services which will give you access to a qualified HR consultant who can advise and support you and your business through this challenging time.

    Call us today on 0845 2626 260 for further information.

    The most important thing you can do for your employees, is keep them informed, aware and ease any concern or panic that they may have by reassuring them that you are being proactive.

    We delved a little into what coronavirus is and how to protect yourself in a blog last month: What Employers Need to Know About Coronavirus but we also feel that it’s important to touch on the HR issues that come with coronavirus.

    Please note that information is being updated daily as this virus spreads, so keep yourself informed by checking reliable news sources regularly.

    Coronavirus and remote working

    Many businesses across the UK, and the world, have started to request that employees work from home where possible to help prevent the spread of the virus.
    This is essential for employees who show any signs or symptoms, such as a cough/sore throat, fever or trouble breathing, even if they have not been diagnosed with coronavirus, it’s better to be safe than sorry, as they could still be a carrier.
    In this case, you should ask that the employ self-isolate and, if the job allows, work from home.

    Another issue that can lead to staff needing to work from home, are school closures.
    Some schools have already started closing for a two-week period which means that a lot of parents are struggling to find childcare at such short notice for such a long period of time.  In this case consideration should be whether they are able to book as annual leave time off as annual leave (subject to sufficient leave being available), or it would be classed as dependent care leave, which is unpaid.

    Coronavirus and sick leave

    If an employee does test positive for coronavirus, then they will need to take sick leave from work and self-isolate at home.

    You should encourage the employee to contact 111 to seek guidance. If the official medical guidance is that they should self-isolate, then this will be classed as sick leave and under emergency legislation passed by the Government last week, Statutory Sick Pay in this instance will be payable from day one.

    The general advice when it comes to quarantine and self-isolation is that you must stay indoors and avoid contact with other people for at least 14 days.

    An employee can self-certify for the first 7 calendar days of sickness. After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, if any, from the employee.

    When the employee is well enough to head back into the workplace, you must conduct a thorough ‘return to work’ assessment to ensure that it is safe for them to be back in the workplace.

    Coronavirus and travelling for work

    If an employee has travel plans in place for their role, particularly if it is out of the country and in a highly affected area, then you will need to contact the airline and look at travel bans as some countries are restricting movement into the country.

    In many cases, flights are being cancelled or rescheduled and you may even choose to enforce as travel ban for the safety of your employee(s) and conduct any oversees business using Skype or an alternative video conferencing communication tool.

    If you do decide to take this route, check your insurance regarding whether you can claim any monies lost.

    Even in the UK, large gatherings and events are also being cancelled so if you do have plans to attend a business event of some sort, you should also check the status of the event and make an executive decision as to whether your employees can attend – although you should also have a discussion with them first to see if they feel comfortable with the idea of going in the midst of coronavirus.

    Coronavirus and downturn in work

    Although the government in the UK has not yet put any major restrictions in place, such as the lockdown we have recently seen in Italy, a lot of industries will see a decline in work – if they have not already. For example, schools are already experiencing closures and leisure industries and travel agencies are likely to see a major drop in demand whilst anxiety and uncertainty is still high.

    When there is a downturn in work, you may need to look at any lay-off or short-time working clauses in your contracts which would allow you lay employees off due to a temporary down turn in work. You would still need to pay statutory guaranteed pay though.

    You could also permit employees to take annual leave during this quieter period.

    If you want further support with any of the above, our consultants are available to speak to on 0845 2626 260

    Preventing the spread of coronavirus

    The best way to protect your business and your employees is to prevent the spread of this virus, as you would any.

    Some simple things you can do today, in addition to what has already been mentioned:

    The government are currently monitoring the situation and providing updates every day.

    Our HR and Health and Safety Consultants are keeping on top of all the latest news regarding coronavirus, so even if you just need advice or help writing up a policy then we are here for you!

    Call us today on 0845 2626 260 or email [email protected] to find out more about our services, or to get a quote.

    *At the time of writing this article which was the 10th of March 2020.

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