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Handling Covid-19 - employer overview

By Ollie Cook, 26th March 2020

With nearly every country now being affected by the coronavirus (Covid-19), it is important that all employers are prepared to manage their business as flexibly as possible.

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What to do in case of symptoms:

  1. If anyone starts showing symptoms in the office, or they have had close contact with someone else that shows symptoms, they should be sent home immediately. The quicker people are self-isolating, the better.
  2. The area around their workspace should be quarantined and given a deep clean.
  3. They should contact NHS 111 online: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19
    This will instruct whether the symptoms warrant individuals (and those around them) to stay at home and how long for.
  • Anyone working through PAYE, will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day 1 provided this is related to coronavirus rather than the usual day 4 (three day waiting period): https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note. Unlike standard SSP, an employer can claim back the first 14 days of SSP for any Covid-19 related absence (whether sick themselves, having to self-isolate due to a member of their household having symptoms or having come into contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19)

NB. Where possible, try to only use the online service so that we can avoid clogging up phone lines. The NHS is a precious resource and we all need to do what we can to help at this time.

  1. If symptoms worsen, call NHS 111 (by dialling 111) and they will inform individuals about the next steps.  

 

Work from home & social distancing:

These should hopefully be common knowledge now, but wherever possible, all staff should be working from home to avoid unnecessary contact in the workplace.

If it is not possible to provide work laptops, we have seen examples of employees individually coming into the office to collect their desktop computers to take home (connect via VPN as with work laptops). Personal desktops & laptops maybe viable, with use of remote access licences to access work computers. We understand that all IT security policies are unique (and may prevent the latter option), so if you are uncertain how to go about implementing this, always communicate with an IT professional to guide on possible solutions to allow for flexible working.

For those that simply cannot work from home (data protection and IT security are normally the primary reasons), ensure that social distancing measures are implemented in the workspace:

  • Have at least 2 metres between all workspaces
  • Provide hand-sanitisers throughout the building
  • Educate staff on cleanliness (hand washing and how to protect others through social distancing in the workplace.

 

Keep up the comms:

I personally have been working from home for 2 years and have found myself to be more productive without the distractions that can come from the office. However, I have read that a big reason for lack of productivity can be the sense of isolation – there are plenty of options available to keep up communication and the ‘team’ spirit.

Outside of work, I feel it is important that employees keep up their social lives and I have already seen plenty of innovative suggestions including virtual ‘pub quizzes’ or Monopoly! Here are some apps that your staff may find useful:

  • Microsoft Teams
  • Google Hangouts*
  • Skype*
  • Zoom**
  • Houseparty
  • Facetime/WhatsApp/Facebook video etc.

*For companies still going ahead with recruitment, these are particularly useful for remote interviewing.

**As a company, if you don’t have Microsoft Teams, Zoom is a great (free) web application for conference calls that only requires a web browser and reasonable internet connection – no downloads required, for those with download restrictions.

 

Reassuring staff:

During these uncertain times, keeping your staff updated (be it permanent or temporary) has got to be a priority, as lack of communication will inevitably lead to unnecessary rumours and concern amongst the workforce, which is never likely to end positively.

The government page is the most up-to-date and the only one we can guarantee to be 100% accurate: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Keep on top of the news – particularly Friday’s announcement for 80% pay for those companies without enough work: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

We have also found this site useful for employee guidance: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

 

Recruitment:

And finally, a comment on the industry over the past week…

Some of our clients have indeed paused recruitment, but many have only put it on hold whilst they are working out how to train remotely, including creating PDF training documents to work alongside video training.

I know many clients who have been meaning to write these training manuals for months, so this may be a good time to finally getting around to doing so, as inevitably these manuals will be useful for future starters, regardless of whether it’s in person or remotely. If there is slightly reduced workload, this is a really easy task for your employees to help with to pool information and resources.

And a few, fortunate companies will be absolutely fine during this period (or may even do well out of it), so are continuing to recruit as normal.

Regardless, as employers, the more we can reassure individuals we will get through this and try to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible, the better. Morale and confidence in the market is incredibly important to the economy, so I really do feel this is of upmost importance.

Tags: covid-19, Ollie Cook, Coronavirus, Recruitment

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