Updated: May 17
The new coronavirus, COVID-19 has been spreading around the world, with cases and deaths reported in an ever-growing number of countries. As governments put in place measures to control its spread, many businesses are feeling the squeeze. Advice for employers has been issued by governments around the world, including the UK, Australia, and Canada.
Beyond following any guidelines or restrictions introduced by government, there are some other things that you can do as an employer to protect your team from COVID-19 and help to shield your business from its effects.
The UK’s Chief Medical Officer has asked that anybody who is experiencing symptoms including a new, persistent cough or a fever, or has come into contact with a coronavirus patient, self-isolates for at least 7 days. Staff returning home from countries on the Department of Health’s watch list should also self-isolate for 2 weeks
Encouraging all your employees to follow this advice may sound costly, after all absent employees need to be replaced, at cost to the employer, or have their work left undone or picked up by a colleague. The truth is that self-isolation benefits your business as well as wider society. While there are costs to having one or two employees self isolating, these are far less than the disruption of having an infectious disease spread throughout your workplace. This is true for any illness, let alone for a global pandemic.
Many staff will be concerned by the concept of staying home from work for 2 weeks. Low-paid staff especially may be concerned about the financial aspect, others may be concerned about losing their job for non-attendance. These workers are likely to feel pressure to come to work right up to the point where they are physically too sick. By this time, they may have infected many colleagues. So what can you do to keep your team and your workplace safe?
Allow staff to work from home
Not all roles need the employee to be in the office to be fulfilled. The modern tech explosion of the past 2 decades means that staff who are not sick but self-isolating can often log on to work networks, and even participate in meetings from home. This lets them carry on their work without risking contagion. Many firms, including tech giants such as Google have pre-emptively asked all of their employees to do this, potentially saving themselves thousands of sick days.
Make sure employees know their job is secure
Even if tasks cannot be done remotely, staff should know that their job is secure if they self-isolate. Talk to your team and let them know that their welfare and the welfare of your business and customers are intertwined, and that they will not lose their job for following health advice.
Support staff financially
It may not be possible for all firms, but if at all possible try to remove the financial burden of sick leave. If employees know that the income they need is still coming they are more likely to protect your business by staying home when they should. If full sick pay is not an option for you, then make sure you support your team in providing statutory sick pay, or any other benefits and government support that is available.
Remember your responsibilities
All businesses have a duty of care to those that work for them. This will obviously include following any government rules to shut workplaces, but it may mean taking action before that. As this advice line for lawyers reminded law firms, there are basic health and safety requirements to consider.
Firms will also need to urgently consider the legal obligations they have to their own staff. If the work environment is not safe, then staff ought not to attend. https://t.co/aTt4NRUCn0 — CrimeLine (@CrimeLineLaw) March 12, 2020
Be vigilant in monitoring your team’s health, and make sure that they follow the needed steps, of hand-washing, self-isolation, and social distancing, and your company can play it’s part in containing the spread of COVID-19.
Need some help?
If you are a LeaveWizard customer and need help setting up LeaveWizard to record home working, or to allow remote notifications and approvals for absence, check out our online support knowledgebase, or contact our support team.