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Covid-19: Actions employers should be taking now

31st March 2020

Covid-19: Actions employers should be taking now

The actions you take will depend, to some extent, upon the nature of the workplace, the roles carried out and the demographic of the workforce. 

Here are some of the issues you should consider from an employment law perspective:

  • Absence management.  Consider how your absence management processes and trigger points may be adjusted to reflect self-isolation and high numbers of diagnosed cases
  • Business critical roles.  Identify business critical roles and how to maintain those roles, especially now that schools and nurseries are closed. Consider what pay your employees will receive if they work part-time to fit around childcare and the benefits of acting flexibly to allow as many employees as possible to continue working. Consider whether the business would be best served by encouraging employees to work flexibly and making that facility available, or by encouraging the use of statutory rights to time off to care for dependants, annual leave or parental leave
  • Communication.  Communicate your policy on homeworking, work travel and precautionary isolation clearly. Provide regular updates. Ensure that employees are asked to speak to their manager upon return from any overseas travel prior to attending the workplace, and that they are notified of the government's position on self-isolation as it develops, as well as the employer's position if more stringent.  Provide clear guidance to managers on how to deal with an employee who attends work displaying symptoms or who has potentially been exposed to the virus
  • Compliance with government, PHE and WHO guidance on hygiene in the workplace, and other preventative measures
  • Coronavirus taskforce.  Consider appointing a coronavirus taskforce who are responsible for keeping track of developments, updating internal guidance and communicating with workers. Consider whether a dedicated intranet page is required
  • High-risk employees.  Identify any high-risk employees and consider whether there are any potential discrimination implications that mean a more cautious approach is required. Ask employees who have been identified as vulnerable in government guidance to contact their manager to discuss working arrangements
  • Personal data.  Ensure that employees have provided up to date personal details
  • Remote working.  Is the infrastructure in place to allow large numbers of employees to work from home? Is the IT system prepared for a high number of employees to work remotely? Do employees have the hardware necessary to work from home? Will additional guidance need to be issued to reduce demand on the IT systems if many people will be working remotely simultaneously?
  • Separation of the workforce.  Some employers are physically separating the workforce into separate units in an attempt to minimise the risk of COVID-19 spreading throughout the whole workforce
  • Sick pay.  You should consider your contractual sick pay policy and the practical implications of withholding pay or reducing pay to SSP. You will no doubt wish to balance the costs of paying full pay (where you are not legally obliged to do so) with the indirect costs (in terms of spreading the virus and increasing sickness absence) where employees attend work following potential exposure to the virus, or even when exhibiting symptoms of it, in order to continue receiving pay. In circumstances where the employees would otherwise be in receipt of nil pay or SSP, some employers are introducing a new right to full pay for a finite period
  • Workforce minimums and safety.  Identify the minimum and safe level of workers required to continue operating and how that can be maintained in the worst-case scenario. Identify the point at which the business may need to cease operating temporarily and consider the employment law consequences

If you need support with any employment issues, please get in touch with our head of employment, Tim Jones via phone 07815 167206 or email tim.jones@higgsandsons.co.uk

For help and support with any other personal or business legal issues during the Covid-19 crisis, please call us on 0345 111 5050 or email supportingyou@higgsandsons.co.uk

 

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