With the ever-evolving challenges presented by Covid-19, many businesses are hunting out and dusting off their business continuity plans and their employee handbooks, only to find that their policies and procedures aren’t fit for a global pandemic. The latest Government of Jersey statistic is that up to 50% of the population will contract the virus and be symptomatic. The disruption to businesses already feels real and it is only likely to increase.
The coming weeks will be a balancing act for employers who have to think about both their business needs and, in tandem, their statutory duty of care to the health and safety of their employees and customers.
All businesses should be proactive in minimising the risk to their employees and customers to help to stop the virus spreading and should be considering new policies and procedures. Don’t forget that if your business operates in different locations it’s important to be specific with your policies and procedures in each location and keep up to date with local advice in each country.
Below are the questions we’ve been asking this week and we would encourage you to do the same.
Policies and procedures for minimising risk in the workplace
- Workplace hygiene including; What is expected from your colleagues to maintain hygiene standards? How will you provide sufficient infection control supplies? What are your new cleaning and disinfecting measures? For example, Uber’s policy requires all Uber drivers to disinfect their own cars.
- Work related exposure to the virus including; What aspects of your business might bring you into contact with covid-19? Can social distancing or working from home help? Will you need to minimise physical contact with your colleagues or customers? What tools can you use to facilitate this like video conferencing or virtual team and board meetings?
- Travel restrictions including; What restrictions are you putting in place about business travel? How will this affect your colleagues commuting to your office?
- Worksite risk reduction including; Is there a need to reduce use of your offices by splitting teams? For example, one portion of the team at home and one in office for defined amounts of time? How will you maintain virus control measures if you implement this? Do you need a plan to operate on skeleton staff? What measures are you putting in place for employees who are more vulnerable, either due to age or underlying medical conditions?
Policies and procedures to support your internal and external communications
- Crisis communications planning including; Do you have a plan in place that is being managed daily? Who are your official spokespersons? Have you developed messaging for worst case scenarios so that you aren’t having to react without preparation? Do your employees know how to report if they are symptomatic and do you have a backup plan in case the first port of call they try is also unwell? What is the protocol for your employees if they display symptoms?
- Connection to local government advice including; How are you keeping up to date with latest government guidance? How are you communicating any changes in government advice to keep your employees informed? How does latest government advice impact your service and what changes will be needed?
- Internal communications including; How are your leaders keeping open lines of communication with your employees? Who can your employees speak to if they have concerns and how are you communicating this? Are you supporting your colleague’s mental health as well of their physical health? How can they access these resources?
- External communications including; How are you keeping your customers informed of the changes to your business operations? Which channels are you using to contact them? Do you need to use different channels to normal? How can your customers continue to access your services? If your business has to close how do you maintain contact with your customers until you can open again?
Policies and procedures about employee entitlements
- Sickness entitlements including; What will happen in the event of sickness and self-isolation? What are the entitlements for pay, both statutory and what the business will offer. The Government of Jersey has advice on this here: https://www.gov.je/Health/Coronavirus/Pages/CoronavirusSicknessBenefit.aspx
- Dependants and Bereavement entitlement including; What will you do in the event a person has to care for another or suffers a bereavement? What is your plan for parental leave, given the school closures. Will you be offering leave, paid or unpaid? Will you offer alternative childcare provision?
These are difficult times for all businesses but if your business is severally impacted you could consider introducing a voluntary special leave policy on a temporary basis whereby individuals can opt to take unpaid leave or deferred payment of wages. For employees this must be voluntary or it will breach employment contracts and if management are looking at such measures for their employees, they should also consider their own positions. At this time you may well have employees who are willing to take additional time off to suit their personal circumstances but other employees who may struggle financially if they lose pay. You could also consider offering a shorter working week or alternative weeks of work and communicate the business reasons to employees. We would encourage all businesses to consider all options and talk through possibilities with their employees before looking at redundancy if they can.
If you need any support or guidance please do get in touch and the following resources are useful for businesses: