Are you ready to offer secure and compliant home-working in the next stage of preparedness for Coronavirus?
We are all facing an unprecedented period of uncertainty due to the global Covid-19 Coronavirus epidemic that is highly likely to have a major impact on UK business continuity as it has already across huge areas of Europe, Asia and America.
The UK Government has stated we are still in the ‘containment’ period and, although it is still business as usual at the moment, it could change rapidly over the coming days and weeks. Businesses should start thinking now about the steps they need to take to ensure continuity in their operations and reduce the impact that any disruptions to their services.
Businesses are advised to follow the updates (daily at 2pm) provided by the government and Public Health England (PHE) for employers and businesses. There is also useful information provided by ACAS and a range of planning tools available from the Business Growth Hub.
How can businesses prepare for an escalating Coronavirus epidemic?
Communication with your teams is essential to educate, to allay fears and reduce anxiety. It’s good practice to issue a company statement on your response to Covid-19. Employers should provide all internal staff and agency workers with information including symptoms, basic hygiene to help protect themselves and others, where they can get more information and when they should seek medical guidance if they have or may have been exposed to the virus.
It would also be useful to confirm your company policy with regards to sick pay and inform of any financial government assistance; who to report to in the event of absence – (who to contact and how frequently); company policy regarding time off to look after dependents and returning to work.
What if employees are worries about coming in to the work environment?
Some people may be worried about catching Coronavirus and therefore unwilling to come into work. If this is the case, employers and HR personnel should listen carefully to the concerns of their employees and, if possible, offer flexible working arrangements such as homeworking. Employees can also request time off as holiday or unpaid leave (but at the moment there is no obligation on employers to agree to this).
Particular care should be taken in respect of employees who have other underlining health conditions that may mean that they have reduced immunity or are otherwise more vulnerable to the virus.
In the event of staff having to self-isolate or even in the extreme situation of any-lock down as has happened in Italy, employers may want to start thinking about whether they need to take any steps to facilitate secure home-working.
Are employees entitled to sick pay?
Employees and agency workers are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they meet all of the qualifying criteria. At the moment, SSP applies if they are actually sick and unable to work (due to illness or injury) but the current regulations also extend SSP to someone who is not unwell if they are abstaining from work (self-isolating) on the following basis:
- Being given a written notice issued under legislation
- Because they are infectious or could reasonably be believed to be infectious or to have been in contact with an infected person; and
- The infection is a disease which is subject to legal regulation for public health reasons.
If these conditions apply, a person will be treated as if they are unable to work due to sickness and therefore eligible to receive SSP. From 4th March, the government declared that this is payable from the first day of sickness rather than the fourth day.
What steps should business take to ensure secure and compliant home-working?
Before encouraging staff to work from home, employers should consider whether they have the correct, secure IT infrastructure in place. This means providing the necessary equipment (such as a secure laptop with anti-virus for example) as well as access to cloud-based tools and applications that they require to perform their usual duties.
There are then other practicalities to consider – such as health and safety risk assessments, the reimbursement of expenses (such as heating and electricity), what the company will be responsible for providing and any additional insurance cover. Employees will need to tell their mortgage provider or landlord and their home insurer of their intention to work from home.
A detailed Home-Working Policy is essential to communicate to home-workers how their work will be monitored and managed, the hours they are expected to work, how they will communicate or work with other team members, as well as any training and support that will be offered.
If you need help preparing for home-working or are considering the use of temporary agency workers to cover potential disruption to your business, get in touch with the Grassroots Team today to find out how we can help minimise the risk to your business and customers.