Coronavirus – Key HR Considerations

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You can’t get away from talk about Coronavirus, and the MIA’s partners at The HR Point thought it would be good to cover some key questions to help you think about what you need to do as an employer…

As an employer you have a duty of care to your employees, this means you should think about what you can do to help prevent infection and deal with employees who have concerns, have to self-isolate or are quarantined.

What are the concerns you should think about?

  • Travel
  • Self-isolation
  • Fear of infection

 Below are 5 action points: 

  1. The first thing you need to do is comply with the guidelines from Public Health England: www.gov.uk/government/organisations/public-health-england
  2. The second thing you can do is remind employees of Public Health England (PHE) recommendations to help prevent people from catching and spreading COVID-19:
    • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
    • put used tissues in the bin straight away
    • wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
    • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
    • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
    • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

And ensure you provide facilities for your employees to comply with the above.

  1. Make sure employees know the symptoms and what to do.

4. Communicate your plan for those who have returned from an affected area.

5. Consider your plan if you did have to close the office / premises due to Coronavirus

Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. Do you have to pay an employee who is in self-isolation?

Technically no, but good practice would be to treat it as sick leave.

  1. Do you have to pay an employee who has been quarantined?

Again, technically no but it is good practice to do so.

  1. What if an employee refuses to come to work or go to a work meeting / event over fear of catching Coronavirus?

You should speak to them to understand their concerns, can you address their concerns, do they have underlying medical conditions or are they at higher risk if they caught Coronavirus?  Can you reach an agreement with them?
If it is business travel consider is it essential? or are there other options to avoid the travel? – especially if it is overseas travel.

  1. What about employees who get stuck overseas due to quarantine or cancelled flights due to Coronavirus?

It is good practice to treat this as sickness absence, although technically you are not legally required to do so.

  1. Travelling for work – should you do it?

Consider if travel overseas (or in the UK if the situation in the UK changes) is essential or are there other options?  Remember as an employer you have a duty of care, so you should also do a risk assessment for travel.

  1. If you close due to Coronavirus do you have to pay employees?

If this happens, firstly if possible you should see if employees can work from home, and now is a good time to consider this so you have time to make plans.
If you have to close and employees cannot work from home, then yes you will need to pay employees unless you have a short term lay off pay clause in the contracts

  1. What if employees need time off to look after someone?

This would fall under time off for Dependants.  For example, if a school is shut due to Coronavirus, parents will need to look after their children, this would be covered, as would caring for an ill dependant.

  1. What if an employee refuses to self-isolate or quarantine themselves?

Hopefully this will not happen, if it does firstly speak to them and ask why and discuss why they need to self-isolate or quarantine themselves.  If they constantly refuse then you could suspend them, in which case you would need to pay them.

  1. What about employees with a higher risk, i.e. pregnant employees or those with medical conditions that put them at higher risk?

You should talk to them and see what you can do to help protect them as you will have a higher duty of care, especially for pregnant employees and those with disabilities.

  1. Do you need a Coronavirus policy?

Not specifically, but you should circulate something to employees covering, prevention, symptoms and what to do, and guidance on how you will deal with those required to self-isolate or in quarantine.
You should also update your risk assessments to cover Coronavirus.
You may also want to ask employees to tell you if they or a member of their family has or is due to travel to or from a high risk area so you can decide on what they should do.

This is an unprecedented situation and the key is to act reasonably, as well as keeping up to date with guidance as the situation develops. 

The HR Point are your point of contact for all human resource related matters, with discounted services available for MIA members. Contact alice@mia.org.uk for the details

www.thehrpoint.co.uk