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This article was published on June 10th, 2020
Our checklist provides the employment considerations which will enable you to assess and control the risk of COVID-19 as lockdown measures are eased.
In line with government guidance, provide “clear, consistent and regular communication” to your workforce where appropriate. Reassure and set out a clear plan. Print off and display the appropriate “COVID-19 secure” notice to demonstrate that the guidance has been followed. Ensure those with responsibility at the company are fully informed on the protocol. Seek confirmation from the workforce that they have understood the new rules and will abide by them.
Employees will have concerns and understandably so – whether returning to the workplace or continuing to work remotely. Create an easy process to ensure the workforce has a voice which is listened to. For example, through a monitored email box, helplines, forums etc. Be as flexible as possible. Implement ideas that are suggested.
Consider employer support or advice with referral to consultants/specialists for those employees facing future hardship. Ensure that you have details of external support that can be accessed in particular for those with challenging personal circumstances, for example, those with a disability and those requiring Access to Work.
The impact of the pandemic on mental health and well-being cannot be underestimated. You must be mindful of the mental health risks associated with the level of change. You should consider the following:
This is critical, whether through virtual meetings or otherwise. Messages of support and providing a sense of community is key.
Employees have had to adapt to a sudden change in their working environment and a further period of change is expected. It will be important for you to provide structure and co-ordination of work, setting clear, achievable objectives but making employees aware that there is a likelihood of further change and to expect and embrace that in ensuring the stability of the organisation.
Consider physical and mental well-being support for those employees who have been considerably affected by the pandemic. Be understanding in relation to fears about not working at home, job losses and caring for others.
Is there a reduction in work? Do you need to consider reorganisation/restructuring of the business? Is any downturn temporary or permanent?
The workplace may look like a different place. Can employees be re-trained/skilled to work in different areas? Can they access them?
As employers, you have a duty of care for your workforce. The guidance provides essential detail on workplace COVID-19 risk assessments and sets out a very clear objective “that all Employers carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment”. You should update risk assessments for the workforce as a whole in line with government guidance. Early shortcomings in risk assessments may well accepted, however where there has been sufficient time and ability to revise assessments, they should be updated. In particular, consider vulnerable employees and any extra protection they may require to be brought back to work. Consult with the relevant bodies where applicable.
Know your workforce. Circulate questionnaires and surveys, ensure you know who in your business needs what assistance. Review business processes to make certain you are in the best possible position to plan ahead. Create a clear image, know what is working well and what measures you will want to keep once restrictions ease.
What measures are being put in place to assist those caring for people, from young children to caring for the vulnerable? Who in your workforce is shielding? Who lives with someone who is shielding? Are they able to work from home in their current role or in an alternative role? Consider possible discrimination issues.
Be mindful of the particular needs of different groups of workers or individuals. The government guidance highlights that it is breaking the law to discriminate against anyone because they have a protected characteristic and the particular responsibilities towards disabled workers and those who are new or expectant mothers.
As you are having to adapt at an unprecedented rate, it is important to look to the next stage and consider possible further lockdowns. Consider what measures can be put in place to help facilitate the next phase. Look ahead as much as possible and prepare your workforce for change.
Risk assessments, mental health support and data protection will all need addressing. You will also need to consider what equipment will need to be purchased for remote workers; including laptops, monitors, stationery and other home office items.
Check your employee insurance to ensure employees are adequately protected in the current climate and with the new ways of working especially if they are working from home on a more permanent basis.
Communicate with clients/customers to assure them that you are able to continue to operate safely during the pandemic. Set out any specific measures to offer reassurance. Ensure the “COVID-19 secure” notice is displayed appropriately to demonstrate compliance with government guidance.
You will wish to implement travel restrictions during the current climate. Ensure this is communicated appropriately to the workforce and a red flag system is in place for any travel booked. The guidance highlights the need to minimise non-essential travel, minimise the number of people travelling together and provides advice on cleaning vehicles between shifts. There are likely to be concerns from staff with regard to commuting to and from work, you should listen to those concerns and be as flexible as possible. For example, staggered start times may be appropriate to reduce the risk.
New working arrangements are inevitable. Consider whether the changes necessitate a change to the contract of employment, for example implementing temporary staggered start times etc.
Consider management of annual leave. Make use of notice/counter-notice provisions to help ensure annual leave is taken at the ideal time for the organisation. Bear in mind the new provisions on carry-over of leave.
You will need to consider the impact of COVID-19 on any bonus/commission arrangements.
Consider possible amendments to address social distancing breaches or other reckless COVID-19 behaviour. Government guidance has been very specific over measures which must be taken, You will need to ensure steps are taken to enforce the new safety advice. You may see a rise in disciplinaries and grievances relating to COVID-19 and the change in working practices.
Update policies and procedures to ensure the new measures are clear. What steps are being taken to protect the workforce? What part do employees need to play? From enhanced personal hygiene to social distancing in the workplace, employees should be clear on what is expected from them and what they can expect. Although the recent government guidance does not address temperature checks (the guidance is constantly being updated), some You may consider this to be a sensible measure. If temperature checks are carried out, You will need to be mindful of the issue of consent and data processing within the context of data protection law. Testing should also be carried out consistently across the workforce to help mitigate any discrimination claims.
Review your homeworking policy to ensure it is fit for purpose in the new climate.
Consider whether any amendments need to be made to sickness absence policies, including requirements to self-report COVID-19 symptoms and to self-isolate.
In businesses which are predominantly operating remotely, you will need to plan inductions and supervision appropriately, making use of virtual meetings and any technology available to ensure there is no detrimental impact on quality.
If you have a question about any of the issues raised in this blog post or require assistance in any employment law or HR matter, please contact Amir Khan on 01625 507 506 or email [email protected].
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