As a business owner, you will hopefully either have re-opened your business or will be giving serious thought as to what ‘the new normal’ will look like.
Congratulations if you are back up and running and welcoming back your customers. That’s no mean feat!! You will have developed a strategy to re-open and put a contingency plan in place. You will also have undertaken a written Risk Assessment (if you have over 5 employees) and will, hopefully, have appointed key members of staff who will be responsible for co-ordinating your plan.
But don’t worry if you haven’t managed to get all that done, here is a quick recap for you and for those business owners just starting the process.
The first step is to be aware of the Government guidelines for your sector and planning what adjustments will need to be made for your employees and customers.
Prior to returning to work you will need to consider your working environment. If you can access your place of work, go in while no-one is there and walk around, put yourself in your employee’s shoes.
Undertake a risk assessment and have a think about the physical environment such as cleaning regimes, touch points, kitchen and toilet facilities, etc. You will also need to consider other factors such as preventing transmission of COVID-19, managing vulnerable employees or those caring for others; social distancing, PPE etc.
In the run-up to a return to the workplace, communication with your employees is key. Let them know about the changes you have put in place; this will reassure them. Also tell them about potential return dates so that they can put in place any necessary caring arrangements. Make a note of any concerns that they may have about returning; including any medical conditions that may need to be considered. Mutual agreement is always better and economically prudent.
The questions and concerns that PrivilegeHR and its clients are being asked regularly include:
- Am I safe to come back into the workplace?
- I may have COVID – what do I do and will I be paid?
- Why can’t I continue to work from home?
- My children haven’t gone back to school; so can I stay at home?
- Can I stagger my hours?
- How do we take breaks?
- Can I wear smart casual clothing so I can put it in the wash; rather than a dry clean suit?
- Can I take holidays whilst I’m on furlough?
These are all valid questions and concerns and you may want to think about what the approach of your business will take to each of these. This approach will vary dependent upon your business policies and procedures and also the Government guidelines at the time.
There is lots of free guidance out there to help you www.gov.uk; www.acas.org.uk or www.hse.gov.uk. Alternatively, contact an employment specialist such as PrivilegeHR who will be able to bespoke the advice to your particular needs.
You may also want to think about whether you need everyone back in the initial phase. You may be happy to allow some staff to continue to work from home as this may aid social distancing and reduce the risk of more members of your team potentially having to shield. Your business may be opening on reduced hours so you may want to review shift patterns or part-time/flexible furloughing (which is available from 1st July 2020).
Dependant on whatever action you take, it would be beneficial to also consider those who should still shield and those more vulnerable to COVID-19 including:
- Solid organ transplant recipients.
- People with specific cancers:
- People with severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary (COPD).
- People with rare diseases and inborn errors of metabolism that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), homozygous sickle cell).
On the first day you may want to think about conducting a mini-induction; meet everyone and tell them what changes you have made to the workplace, how you might need them to work differently and also be open about your plans are for the business in the short term. It’s amazing how these team talks have generated lots of great suggestions for how a business can ride the wave of what might be a difficult economic period still to come.
COVID related matters and guidance changes daily, so review your practices on a regular basis and look at what adjustments may be required. Communication and Engagement are key at the best of times, but in difficult circumstance is worth its weight on gold.
Here is to the new normal!!
PrivilegeHR are HR and employment specialists that regularly advise businesses on COVID related matters. We also partner with Occupational Health providers, Kays Medical.