Geek Speak: COVID-19 x UK Employers, a quick guide

Alyssa Shamshudin


How to manage with COVID-19: A quick guide for UK employers:

 

We’re no stranger to what’s happening in the world right now, and as an employer you must have several questions running through your head. We’re here to help and break down some of the UK government’s advice and help you keep on top of things to ensure your employees are healthy, safe and prepared for what’s to come.

Communication is key!

It’s good practice for employers to do the following:
  • Create an action plan and keep everyone updated to reduce any risks of exposure
  • Consider any extra precautions for staff who are more vulnerable than others (over 70, have pre-existing conditions) It’s important to recognise that not all staff will likely want to share their medical history with all team members or line managers, so reiterate that your HR or People team is able to handle enquiries in a confidential and delicate manner
  • Ensure everyone is kept informed about the virus, its symptoms, the possible impact it will have to the business and what to do in case someone falls ill. BUT be mindful to stick to the facts and not spread panic.
  • Provide clean facilities with access to water, soap and hand sanitiser
  • Put policies in place around sickness, ensuring clarify for all employees and managers on all processes moving forward. For example, sick pay and procedures in case someone in the workplace shows symptoms of the virus.

An employee is showing symptoms - what now?

If an employee or anyone in their immediate family and household are showing symptoms, they should stay home and avoid leaving the house. The following is the current advice provided by the UK government:
  • If anyone or anyone in a person's household has symptoms and has been advised to self-isolate, everyone in their household must also self isolate for 14 days
  • Ensure you have proper processes in place to allow for employees to easily inform their employers:
    • As soon as possible
    • The reasons why
    • The possible duration of their leave
All employees showing symptoms must receive Statutory Sick Pay. A few rules regarding SSP are as follows:
  • Statutory sick pay (SSP) “will now be available for eligible individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice”.
  • Extended SSP will be available for all those who are advised to to self isolate even if they have no symptoms
  • SSP will be available from day 1 of their sick leave as opposed to day 4
  • Gov.uk states that employees are eligible to up to £94.25 per week of statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. 

Taking care of loved ones.

Many employees will have vulnerable loved ones who may need to be cared for during this time such as grandparents or children. Employees should be entitled to time off in these situations. 
There’s no statutory pay for this, however dependent on your contract you may decide what leave type this would constitute as (holiday leave entitlement could come into play here). 
The amount of time off taken by an employee should be reasonable to the given situation.

What happens if you need to close?

In light of the current situation, the prospect of closing your operations is a likely outcome. This will put a lot of pressure on employers and businesses as it has the potential to mean that staff may be laid off temporarily. As stated previously - communication is key! 
The best practices in such an instance are:
  • Communicate that you may need to close down the business for a short time or ask staff to reduce their contracted hours
  • Employers have the right to tell staff to take holiday leave, ensure this is communicated effectively so staff are aware of the reason why and ensure they understand how it will impact their holiday entitlement.

Looking out for your employee’s well-being.

It’s a difficult time, for all of us. There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding this situation, we don’t know what additional steps the UK government will take, we don’t know how long this will last, we don’t know the impact it will have on our health or how it will affect our friends and family. 
It goes without saying that this is a weird time for everyone and there’s no point trying to conceal this from your staff; after all, transparency is key. It’s also important to understand that whatever stresses or concerns you’re feeling, in all likelihood - your employees are feeling it too. 
In order to make things a little bit easier for everyone, we suggest the following:
  • Having open, candid conversations about the current situation. Let your staff know that these are uncertain times and everyone is feeling slightly anxious
  • Set up drop in sessions/Q&A’s with your staff so you can address any concerns they may have
  • Suggest the use of mental health apps.
During these difficult times you must remember to be kind to everyone and lend a helping hand where needed, and, most importantly - to keep calm and wash your hands! 🤗✨