Trying to manage staff in these uncertain times, with ever-changing advice and precautions, it may be confusing to know what to do regarding managing your team. I’m sharing my tips from an HR point of view in line with current government advice.*
Your first responsibility is the health and well-being of your staff. Unfortunately, it now seems that up to 80% of the population will contract the virus in coming months, but following NHS advise and HSE advise on this will limit your team’s risk.
Coping with business as usual
In order to maintain the delivery of your usual business it’s recommended that, where possible, allowing employees to work remotely will limit infection and the spread of the virus, whilst ensuring that services are maintained.
If remote working isn’t something that your business has already embraced, developing a Working from Home policy around this will ensure that expectations are understood.
If remote working isn’t an option for your business, make sure that you:
- Send anyone showing symptoms home.
- Support those who have been told to self-isolate, they may still be able to work remotely.
- Maintain absence records.
- Make sure your workplace is clean and hygienic.
- Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by everyone.
- Provide all employees with an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Encourage people to use and bin tissues.
Downturn in business
It’s possible that a downturn in business whilst the situation continues is unavoidable. Small businesses in particular are likely to suffer. To minimise the impact, consider:
- Developing a business continuity plan if you don’t already have one in place.
- Keeping staff informed and engaged with regular communication.
- Asking your staff if they have ideas on how to weather the storm – you don’t have to have all the answers.
- Developing flexible resource plans – if onsite working is essential, consider implementing a shift working pattern in the short term to avoid large amounts of people working at the same time. Part-time or week on-week off working are also possible options.
If it comes to needing to reduce the number of staff in the short term, there are several things you could look at. Note: be aware that changes to existing contracts can only be implemented by mutual consent. With consent, you may consider:
- Recruitment freeze, upskilling existing staff instead
- Short-term lay-offs
- Reduced hours (subsequently reduced pay)
- Unpaid leave
- Using annual leave
- As a last resort, redundancies
With open and honest communication, most staff will understand and consider short-term loss of income over the possibility of losing their job entirely. Please seek professional advice before implementing any changes, otherwise you may end up with employment tribunals to cope with too.
- You are able to reclaim any Coronavirus related SSP, speak with your payroll provider for help to recoup this. This is up to two weeks sick leave for each employee affected by the virus.
- Retail, leisure and hospitality sector should receive business rates discounts.
- You may be eligible to receive support with your tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service.
- A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch in a matter of weeks to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.
- There are a number of grant/loan schemes which the government are rolling out, check your eligibility.
At present, we know that this is likely to continue for the next few months, so ensuring that you do whatever you can to look after your business, staff and self is paramount. Communication and flexibility from all will be how we overcome the challenges we all face.
I truly hope as few people are affected by this as possible, take care of yourselves and each other.
* Advice given here is subject to change and will greatly depend on individual circumstances. It should not be taken on without further discussion and advice based on a specific situation.