COVID-19: The latest HR advice for employers

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In this article, the MIA shares some key questions and answers to help UK MI businesses think about what they need to do as employers…

Q: Should I be sending employees home?

A: The government has now advised that all employees should be working from home “where they possibly can.”

This means if you haven’t already, you need to start making preparations for home-working for your employees. That is unless their presence at work is vital to performing their role.

Further guidance was provided on self-isolation too. Now, if anyone in an employee’s household displays symptoms, the employee should stay at home for 14 days. So, if an employee is displaying symptoms, if someone they share a home with is displaying symptoms, or if they’re able to work from home, they shouldn’t be at work.

Updates are posted regularly on the government website, so keep up to date with them here.

Q: What do I do if someone refuses to come into work?

A: Some people are rightfully concerned about their health. If there’s a heightened risk of catching the virus in your workplace, some employees may refuse to come in. If they do you should listen to their concerns and offer reassurance.

You should consider offering a temporary flexible working arrangement, including homeworking if possible. Or, you could allow them to take some time off as holiday or unpaid leave.

And, of course, if there’s a legitimate reason for not coming into the office (as outlined above) employees should stay at home.

Forcing an employee to come into work against their will, in these unprecedented circumstances, is likely to get messy fast, so try to be as considerate and flexible as possible.

Q: Do I have to pay employees who are self-isolating?

A: The other issue that comes with self-isolating is pay. Everyone who has been advised to self-isolate will be entitled to SSP. This is provided they meet other qualifying conditions, such as a minimum level of earnings. And, this is expected to be the case for the next eight months.

For companies with fewer than 250 staff, the Government has pledged to refund SSP for the first two weeks of absence.

Q: Do I have to pay employees who have Coronavirus?

A: If an employee is legitimately sick with the virus, then they qualify for at least statutory sick pay (SSP). If their contract states that they are provided more, then they will receive that.

SSP is paid at £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks, and is paid from the fourth day of sickness absence. The individual may not have to provide a doctor’s note, as staff can self-certify with symptoms of flu without a doctor.

REMEMBER: This will increase to £95.85 in April 2020.

The government have stated that SSP will be provided from day one, not day four. However, the current implementation date for this is yet to be announced.

Q: Should I pay someone who is self-isolating to take care of a dependant with Coronavirus symptoms?

A: If they are under government guidance to self-isolate then they should receive SSP.

Q: What should I do to minimise impact?

A: Acas has also provided guidance for what you should do if the virus spreads more widely across the UK. You should:

  • Ensure staff details are up to date
  • Ensure emergency contact details are up to date
  • Refresh managers on policies & procedures, in particular those relating to sickness absence
  • Implement NHS advice on hygiene in your workplace, including hand-washing guidance and the provision of soap and water
  • Provide hand sanitisers and tissues to staff an encourage usage of them.

It’s also worth considering whether you might need to close your workplace. This includes considering whether homeworking is possible, and maintaining communication with staff.

Please take a look at this full report on managing Coronavirus issues at work developed by Croner, which includes in-depth guidance notes – croner.co.uk/coronavirus-factsheet-

There is also a checklist for managing Coronavirus in the workplace here – croner.co.uk/coronavirus-checklist-

Employer support with the Coronavirus

MIA members – if you’d like to create a coronavirus policy for your business, please contact alice@mia.org.uk.  We have a downloadable coronavirus policy that you can customise, along with a editable later template to tell staff that you’ve put a policy in place.

If you have questions or just want guidance through a sickness absence issue, all MIA members have free access to Croner’s member support helpline. Email alice@mia.org.uk or call 01403 800500 for the exclusive Business Support Helpline scheme number.

www.croner.co.uk