The coronavirus is giving rise to a variety of challenging issues for employers, particularly due to the ever changing national and regional laws and guidelines relating to lockdowns.
At the time of writing (01/10/2020) a number of regions around the UK are in, or are embarking on imminent lockdowns with a number of further regions anticipated to be following suit.
The rules are confusing and vary greatly from region to region. So, how should employers deal with local lockdown rules where you are national business with multiple sites across the UK?
Do national employers need to adopt a regional strategy, or is there still a “one size fits all”?
Here are some factors that you may wish to consider when identifying which strategy is best for your business. We cover health and safety, and communication in the full guidance note on our coronavirus advice hub.
Place of Work
Since the announcement in September, all four nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are now very clear in that office workers, including key workers, who can work effectively from home should do so until the spring at the earliest. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work.
Therefore, you should consider:
- Do you require your workers to attend work to fulfil their roles or could they work from home?
- Do you require all of your workers to attend the workplace fulltime, or can you operate with a hybrid workforce i.e. some people onsite and some people working from home?
- If you require some employees to be in the workplace for some of the time, how do you select who should attend and when?
- Do staff working from home need ay support or equipment to effectively carry out their roles?
- How will managers manage their teams remotely, do any adjustments need to be made to performance standards?
- What measures do you need to put in place to stay connected with your workers and check in on their wellbeing?
- Do you need to carry out or review any H&S risk assessments both in the workplace and for those working from home?
- Are your IT and Data Protection procedures sufficient to ensure security and manage the risk of any data breaches or do they need updating, particularly for those working from home?
- How will employees be reimbursed for any business-related expenses incurred whilst working from home?
It may be wise for managers working with your H&S Advisors and HR to carry out an impact assessment to identify what roles can be carried out remotely, and how to manage any risks identified with working from home, including wellbeing, now that it is effectively being extended to 12 months.
If you are going to operate a hybrid workforce, you will need to ensure a fair method of selection. The fairest way may be to operate a rota system so that all employees attend the workplace for at least some of the time. However, it would also be sensible to consider issues such as health concerns and childcare and whether, in light of these, it would more appropriate to allow homeworking on a fulltime basis whilst restrictions are in place.
If employees are required to attend the workplace for some or part of the time, you may need to consider:
- Are they any issues arising from workers travelling to work, for example; do they use public transport and could they experience delays due to social distancing measures or local lockdown rules?
- Do workers car share and therefore have to make alternative arrangements to travel to work? Particularly if they live in different areas subject to different lockdown restrictions. For example: one employee lives just over the border in England whereas their car share partner lives the over side of the border in Wales?
- Will there be any impact on workers who live in a locked down area having to travel outside the area to attend work or vice versa?
It would be advisable to consider these issues in advance and encourage dialogue with your employees who may experience any difficulties. For example, do you need to consider flexible working or an amended start or finish time for any employees who may have difficulty in travelling to work?
We cover health and safety and additional local lockdown measures that employers may wish to consider, as well as effective communication when implementing a regional or national strategy in the full guidance note on our coronavirus advice hub.