Coronavirus in the workplace: your top questions to us

12 / 03 / 20

Coronavirus, COVID-19 continues to dominate headlines worldwide. According to World Health Organization (WHO) numbers have surpassed 100,000.

In their recent statement, published on 7th March, WHO have reminded all countries and communities that “the spread of this virus can be significantly slowed or even reversed through the implementation of robust containment and control activities”.

What does this mean for your business?

With the rise of suspected and confirmed cases in the UK, there is a need for diligence and this may include an increase in employees’ requests to self-isolate and parents’ requesting time off due to school closure.

This is impacting business across the UK and raising questions around the topics of:

  • Support for parents, in preparation of potential school closure
  • Pay and isolation
  • Flexible working/employees working from home

Here are the top three areas that business owners and managers are most unsure about:

1. Support for parents:

There are already a number of schools closed in the UK and Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty has said that schools could close for more than two months.

Generally, there are two policies to support employees with children:

  • Time off for dependents covering temporary short notice, short term time off to organise child care.
  • Parental leave allowing two weeks in any 12 months per child under 18.

In both cases this is likely unpaid, therefore neither policy is likely to support an employee in a COVID-19 situation where a school closes for 2 months.

Parents in the workforce may be under pressure and the steps to handle this could impact the business and the long-term employee/employer relationship.

Employers are being asked to allow staff to work from home where possible, alternatively employees can be given the options to use their remaining holiday entitlement or where there is none employers can offer the employee a loan with the ability to repay it at a rate that does not cause financial hardship.

2. Pay and isolation

Currently, employees are entitled to pay if they are unable to work due to Covid-19. This includes those who have a written notice from a GP or NHS 111 requesting self-isolation. They are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and on the 4th March the Prime Minister announced that staff will receive payments from the first day of absence, opposed to the usual three days.

If an employee is self-isolating, it is important to know that employers are being asked to enable employees to work from home. In doing this the employee can prevent the spread of the virus and the company benefits from their due diligence. Refusing to provide payment during self-isolation periods could result in legal action from the employee; withholding payment during this turbulent time is unlikely to be well received.

Encouraging flexible working/working from home could be the simplest solution to handle this situation, but flexible working raises its own queries.

3. Flexible working - the pros and cons

Flexible working doesn’t suit every job role, or every individual, but where it is possible there’s a lot to gain.

In this situation flexible working enables companies and staff to do what it necessary to slow down or reverse the implications of coronavirus.

When employees are in a situation where they have to isolate themselves, or in the case of parents, request flexible working to care for their children, the employer/employee relationship is likely to benefit from enabling these changes in the workplace.

Flexible working gives employees the opportunity to manage and control their day without distraction. For some, working from home breeds creativity and encourages deep thought as they can control their environment.

In addition to this, employees can benefit emotionally from flexible working, as it enables them to undertake meaningful personal tasks, whilst delivering on their work commitments.

There is a concern that coronavirus and the current need for remote working will become desirable for employees. It’s not unusual for employers to feel concerned about productivity and the health and wellbeing of employees. Employees who work from home can begin to feel isolated and suffer with their mental health from being alone for long periods of time.

During this time of isolation and remote working employers are encouraged to approach this openly and supportively. It is important that employees feel they can request to work during self-isolation in order to control the spread of COVID-19.

For now, it’s important to keep lines of communications open with those who might struggle.

Please contact Peeps HR if you’d like more detailed guidance on managing the coronavirus outbreak within your business. Call us on 01453 297557 to arrange a free consultation or email enquiries@peepshr.co.uk.


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