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The coronavirus pandemic has indeed arrived globally, and it has impacted your business or employees in some way. Employers and HR Managers are dealing with rapidly evolving manpower challenges arising from the COVID-19 epidemic. They are struggling with issues of employees potentially being placed on quarantine or sick leave, or Government having to lockdown the whole country, implementing protocols to minimise health and safety risks.

What should employers be doing in the current situation?

Most employers should already be focusing on planning and prevention with both urgency and calm when the outbreak occurs in Wuhan, China. Do what you can to immediately protect staff and to plan for possible disruptions as things escalate.

With the latest order given by the Government, lockdown occurs and that people should work from home wherever possible so you should take steps to make this possible. Your employees’ health and well-being are paramount. Employers have a statutory duty of care for people’s health and safety at work.

HR basics to follow

  • Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
  • Ensure that all employees understand how to report any risk to themselves from COVID-19 and that all potential incidents are reported to HR
  • Make sure all staff are aware of your responsibilitiesresponsibilities as an employer and what you are doing to protect people’s health and reduce the risk of any infection spreading
  • HR must always update and communicate as the situation changes.
  • Make sure managers are clear on any relevant policies and processes, for example, sickness reporting and sick pay, homeworking policy and procedures in case someone in the workplace develops the virus.
  • Careful planning is needed, along with trust, good comms and people management.

Protect your people

  • Keep your employees well-informed of the ongoing developments and official advice from the Government and National Health Service and promote resources that are available.
  • Advise employees to take precautions, such as working from home where possible and avoiding non-essential social contact.
  • Increase routine cleaning and workplace disinfecting, such as touched objects like door handles, bathrooms and pantry. It is also best to provide disposable wipes and hand sanitiser for employee use at work
  • Consider cancelling all non-essential business travel and group meetings, especially meetings that consist of 30 people or more
  • For any employees, who had travel for any business trips or back from holidays are to be quarantined for 14days to ensure that they are not affected. terms are being complied to WHO.
  • As for those employees, you may have to be flexible with those policies and make exceptions for unique situations, either for your workforce as WFH
  • Remind your staff about your company’s sick leave policies and update them on any changes to your wellness programs, insurance plans, or any other health-related programs
  • Create communication procedures, or at least have a communications strategy in place, for how your company will communicate with employees about work-related issues, with customer/client inquiries, or with the press especially WFH

Different employers have responded to the crisis in different ways. Most employers across all industries are trying to figure out and how to protect their business.

Protect your business

  • Always standby to have a proper response plan in guidebook due to an infectious disease outbreak. To avoid panic for an employee, able to have them understand the plan’s scope and procedures may be subject to change depending on a change in circumstances or business needs
  • HR Manager to ensure and prepare plans and keep on top of official advice.
  • Think about skills – will you have enough people to keep business-critical operations running if you do face staff shortages? Start training people now.
  • Encourage remote working and working from home where possible, according to Government advice. Consider making laptops available for staff who wouldn’t normally work from home.
  • Invest in technology to facilitate remote working; look into free tools for video conferencing. This will encourage team working / external meetings through video conferencing, etc. Guide them even if they are IT noobs.
  • Test out remote working options before it’s necessary.
  • Consider whether you need to make adjustments for any employees with protected characteristics.

During this Covid-19 period of time, employees tend to feel anxious, worried, paranoid thinking about their well-being. As an Employer or HR manager, you need to consider taking care of the welfare or security of your employees.

Employees mental health and well-being

  • Be understanding that some employees, may be very worried about catching the virus, while others will have concerns about their family or friends
  • Be a listening ear to hear people’s concerns and reassure them that all measures taken care off to protect people and there is no need to panic
  • Communication is indeed very important. Hence, communicate regularly with your employees and ensure the team leads are regularly informed about the organisation’s contingency plans so that they can also provide guidance reassure their respective teams
  • Having counselling sessions to let employees who feel anxious or anxiety panic
  • Drop a Video Call to check on the team workloads and stress levels and offer support wherever possible. Try to be flexible with deadlines, if possible
  • Ensure that you comply with the Working Time Regulations if a number of employees are unable to work this could lead to other employees working longer hours.

These are just a few recommendations for employers to consider in dealing with COVID-19 situation. Let’s stay strong and stay safe!

Posted by:Hirsha Erna

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