Kate Palmer of HR experts Peninsula outlines what employers should do to be ready for any upsurge in Covid cases due to the Omicron variant.
As masks become mandatory in England’s shops, hairdressers, beauty salons, banks, post offices and on public transport and retail leaders urge the government to ensure that workers are supported and protected from abuse, Kate Palmer from HR experts Peninsula outlines why employers should be ready for any sudden change in advice in the wake of the new Covid variant, Omicron.
Businesses must recognise that the new Covid changes are likely to have an impact, so they need to put measures in place to keep their staff and stakeholders safe. Many organisations will be able to follow their plans which have been implemented over previous months, as the restrictions are not anything we haven’t seen before. But, to ensure their efficacy, employers should communicate with their employees to clearly explain the importance of compliance, minimise hesitancy and reassure them that the organisation takes the situation seriously.
Some things to consider include mask wearing, one-way systems, regular testing – including requiring negative tests/vaccination status before attending a Christmas party – and even, potentially, reintroduction of working from home. For now, the Government has said they are not moving to Plan B so it’s up to each employer to decide what will work best for them. Make sure everything is in place and ready to go should the situation change at short notice.
Putting plans in place now and ensuring employees that you are on top of things when it comes to their safety will help contribute towards increased motivation and satisfaction, reduce their fears and can also help reduce the risk of grievances or tribunal claims.
Employers may also have staff members who are currently abroad and will be impacted by the change to arrival rules. If an employee has to quarantine, the first practical consideration should be assessing whether or not they can temporarily work from home. This allows them to maintain their normal salary, whilst organisations benefit from minimal disruption to operations. If homeworking isn’t feasible due to the nature of the role, employers can instead look at offering alternative positions, agreeing a period of annual leave or TOIL (time off in lieu), or authorising unpaid leave. Employees are not entitled to statutory sick pay for periods of quarantine, unless there is a contractual provision for this.