Of course, we strongly advise you have professional HR support, but if you haven’t, these tips will help you stay employment law safe and care for your team during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Don’t Discriminate.
Careful steps need to be taken to avoid slipping into the realms of discrimination. High profile figures such as Donald Trump have blatantly labelled Covid-19 as a Chinese virus, this can encourage language and thought processes that breach the Equality Act 2010 as well as creating a discriminatory culture.
Have a fair process for furlough selection both in placing employees in furlough and for lifting the status.
If redundancies cannot be avoided, remember the redundancy rights still apply even if on furlough.
2. Working from home in exceptional cases
As we are expecting higher numbers of employees to work from home for a prolonged time, this is different to your occasional working from home experience.
Employees can feel isolated, demotivated and struggle with performance when their usual working structure has disappeared. It’s essential that they feel supported and know what’s expected of them. Communication is key and using various ways to communicate, e.g. zoom, whats app groups.
Working from home usually means sitting at a desk / table that isn’t as suitable as the workplace. Therefore, more breaks should be encouraged as well as exercises to encourage movement – desktop yoga is popular.
Remind your team to adhere to data protection rules, it’s easy to slip up on these things when in a different environment.
A policy will help everyone understand the different measures needed.
3. Educate your employees
Employees will have more access to the news, media and social media. There is a lot of information on the coronavirus being circulated, but not all of that information is fact
Update your team on your business position and with information from trusted sources. Reassure your team that this change will bring positive outcomes as you have been given the opportunity to see how well the team and business have adapted to unexpected change
It’s important that we understand the impact the restrictions and worry over the coronavirus can have on our team and ourselves. Not being able to see family, friends and even work colleagues can cause anxiety and depression. This could result in higher levels of absence after the restrictions are lifted.
Make your team aware of the support available both through the business and external sources. Consider engaging an appropriate counsellor to support everyone.
As employees have become used to the restrictions and the safety of their own homes, the thought of returning to a workplace may be daunting for some employees. Emphasise the new measures in place that will make your workplace safer, social distancing, hand wash etc, only essential face to face meetings, these should become common practice when you return to the workplace.
5. Employee Engagement
Covid-19 will reshape the world we live and work in, but lessons and best practice must be learnt so that organisations do not regress backwards into old, outdated employment practices.
Engage with your team on the changes made and what has worked / not worked. Are there any changes that can be introduced on a permanent basis? If working from home was not a preferred option previously, has this enforced change proved that outlook wrong. Talk to the team and consider introducing working from home on a regular basis, e.g. once a week.
Flexible working policies will need to be updated.
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