Read what the latest Public Health guidance means for your business

The guidance appears therefore to be quite confusing. On the one hand COVID safety measures are no longer required for the majority of businesses, but on the other the guidance to self-isolate has been significantly widened. This leaves employers in a real bind as to what to do and leaves open the ongoing significant interruption to business that periods of self-isolation create. Employers will need to give thought to what, if any, other protective measures (such as screens and sanitiser) they wish to retain should they wish to insist on those suffering from a respiratory illness coming to work.

What to do if a member of staff has symptoms of a respiratory infection, including COVID-19

If a member of staff is unwell with symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, they should follow the guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection such as COVID-19.

Employers, in accordance with their legal obligations, may wish to consider how best to support and enable their workforce to follow this guidance as far as possible.

Management of members of staff who are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19

Some workers are at a greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19, for example people who have a weakened immune system.

There is specific guidance for people whose immune system means that they are at higher risk, because they have a reduced ability to fight infections, such as COVID-19. Employers may wish to consider the needs of employees at greater risk from COVID-19, including those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

It is unclear whether there will be any specific updates to the Living with COVID plan but pulling together the various strands we now know:

 

The guidance is to be updated monthly and we will have to see what impact the loss of free mass testing and the updated self-isolation requirements will have.

After Friday 1st April, people who have a positive Covid-19 test are being advised to “try to” stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days, which is when they are most infectious.

Children who are unwell and have a high temperature are being advised to stay home and avoid contact with other people where they can.

They can go back to school, college or childcare when they no longer have a high temperature and they are well enough to attend, the Government said.

Those who are positive, or have symptoms, and need to leave home will be urged to wear masks, avoid crowded places and stay away from people with weakened immune systems.

From 1 April 2022 onwards:

  • Tests:  Free PCR and lateral flow testing will be no longer available for most people. Free tests will be available for a small number of at-risk groups including the over-75s and over-12s with weakened immune systems. For everyone else COVID-19 tests will be charged for and sold through private market retailers and pharmacies. Free tests may be available for schools if they have COVID outbreaks.
  • Working Safely guidance: The existing guidance will be replaced with new public health guidance.
  • Health and safety risk assessments: employers will no longer have to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their health and safety risk assessments.
  • COVID passports or certification: These are no longer recommended for venues and events but remain necessary for international travel. The NHS COVID pass is no longer to be used as a vaccine passport within the UK.

Guidance for employers and the public is being changed, in particular, the requirement to consider COVID-19 in risk assessments and the existing ‘Working Safely’ guidance remains in place until 1 April when it will be replaced with new guidance.

The CIPD recommends considering three questions to help guide workplace safety:

  1. Is your workplace sufficiently safe and supportive?
  2. Are you being flexible in your approach?
  3. What is best for people’s wellbeing and performance?

With the removal of legal restrictions triggering a surge in Covid-19 infections, there is likely to be an increase in employees experiencing lingering symptoms. Organisations’ response should be two-fold, and they should consider how they support employees with long Covid.

Now self-isolation periods have ended we are likely to see employees continuing to work despite confirmed illness, which poses a risk of outbreaks.  For some people Covid-19 symptoms have been little more than a cold and many others have tested positive without any symptoms at all. However, thousands of others have experienced hospital admission, serious symptoms or even symptoms that have remained long after the infection has passed, sometimes known as ‘long Covid’.

So, what can employers do to lower the risk the virus poses to their staff as we move into this next phase of the pandemic?

Planning and management of Workplace Safety

Employers should take an individualised approach to consider the physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of the workforce, as well as following and monitoring ongoing government guidance.

Employers have a duty of care to ensure that the workplace is sufficiently safe to work in, following the latest government guidance. The key aspects that employers should be aware of are:

  • Testing – Encourage Testing
  • Positive Covid Test – People who have a positive Covid-19 test are being advised to “try to” stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days, which is when they are most infectious
  • Work from home – Ask your people to work from home (if their job allows this)  if they have tested positive, but have no symptoms
  • Vulnerable staff – Where possible, risk assess and advise reduced close contact with others in the workplace ie; hybrid working agreement, but predominantly working from home (if possible)
  • Testing Kits – Some employers are buying lateral flow tests to hand out to their staff to support them
  • Enhanced Sick Pay – If you would rather your people were open and honest and they didn’t attend the workplace with Covid symptoms, and put others at risk,  then you may want to look at offering enhanced contractual sick pay
  • Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – Implement an EAP to support your people
  • Risk AssessmentUntil 1 April 2022 employers must undertake COVID-specific risk assessments, from this date employers can choose whether to consider COVID 19 specifically,  or as part of their overall health and safety risk assessments
  • Priority Actions – Including protecting staff and customers, including steps and measures such as improved ventilation, reducing contact for workers, reducing risk for customers, visitors and contractors, cleaning the workplace, personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings, workforce management and tests and vaccinations
  • Ventilation – An ongoing emphasis on the importance of ventilation. Employers can refer to the advice on air conditioning and ventilation on the HSE website
  • Consultation – Consultation may help staff feel safer, taking into account their input on any health and safety measures put in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Many factors must be considered, including risk assessments, the size and nature of the workplace, the number of vulnerable staff or those who live with vulnerable people, caring responsibilities, public transport dependency, as well as any local and wider outbreaks
  • Engage – It is important that businesses engage with their people to understand how they feel. There should be consultation with staff at a company level but it’s also important that line managers understand the specific concerns of their individual team members so they can best support their mental wellbeing and future ways of working. Employers need to stay flexible as guidance and attitudes evolve.

Company Sick Pay Eligibility & Testing 

Consider whether to adjust your company’s sick pay eligibility to cover self-isolation or sickness absence in full. Employers will also have to decide their policy on providing and funding testing given that free testing will end for most people from 1 April 2022.

Challenges

Many employers will want those testing positive for COVID-19 to continue stay at home as this protects vulnerable staff or clients. Asking staff to self-isolate if testing positive but without symptoms, or after close contact with someone testing positive, will become more difficult if employees are concerned about not being paid for periods of absence.

Unvaccinated staff

Earlier in the pandemic unvaccinated staff were more likely to have to self-isolate than fully vaccinated ones. This  led  some employers to previously reconsider their policy on full company sick pay for self-isolation. For example, some employers previously amended their policies to provide SSP only to unvaccinated workers who must self-isolate, unless they had mitigating circumstances, and to pay company sick pay to vaccinated staff. There are many options which employers have adopted including:

  • Fully vaccinated staff receiving company sick pay
  • Unvaccinated staff receiving full company sick pay owing to mitigating circumstances (for example pregnancy or other medical grounds)
  • Vaccinated and unvaccinated workers who test positive being paid full company sick pay
  • Unvaccinated staff without mitigating circumstances identified as close contacts of a positive case being paid only SSP.

While you’re no longer legally required to self-isolate if you have COVID-19, you should try to stay at home and away from others to avoid passing on the virus. The consequences of changing sick pay terms are complex and given the potential legal problems employers may decide not to differentiate between employees. Retaining full company sick pay comes at a cost but does ensure employees comply with any obligation to self-isolate thereby avoiding the risk of infecting others in the workplace. Denying company sick pay may encourage staff to get vaccinated, but on the other hand staff may avoid testing or self-isolation because of anxiety about time off work on reduced pay.

Employers who decide to treat unvaccinated staff differently should consider both the general risks of discrimination claims and should accommodate case by case exemptions based on individual circumstances and medical conditions.

Workplace Culture 

As well as putting in place practical support and adjustments for employees with long Covid, it is important employers strive to create psychologically safe workplaces where people feel comfortable opening up about their physical and mental health.

COVID-19 Response: Living with COVID-19 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Communicating with your people

Whatever policies you adopt for your business, you should make sure that they are effectively communicated to staff. Many disputes and issues that have arisen during the pandemic have been because businesses were unsure of how to react or had not told staff what their approach would be. It’s always worth stating your general approach in some form of written communication, as well as regular virtual or face-to-face briefings.

Health & Safety 

It’s crucial to work in close collaboration with your health and safety and occupational health service providers/teams wherever possible. Regularly communicate to staff the practical measures you are taking to help reassure them that their health, wellbeing and safety is your top priority. Make sure staff and visitors are clear about the rules and procedures they should follow both in the workplace and at home, especially if they begin to feel unwell.

Protection & Hygiene 

To maintain protection and hygiene measures and minimise the spread of infection, remind staff about regular and effective handwashing, and provide hand sanitisers. You should review your cleaning arrangements, for example, ensuring all phones/keyboards and so on are wiped daily with anti-viral cleaner. You can refer to the government guidance for more information.

PPE 

Depending on your working environment, you may need to consider providing additional PPE, including masks or anti-viral hand gel. If you want people to wear gloves or face coverings, then you will also need to think about reminding staff on their correct usage – since these can be ineffective if used inappropriately.

Protected Characteristics 

Employers should take extra care of those with protected characteristics. For example, discuss with disabled workers any reasonable adjustments that can be made to the workplace or working arrangements so they can work safely.

Company Policies 

Employers need to think about their own organisational policies around whether some or all staff are required to be vaccinated and/or tested as part of their job. Employers should continue to monitor the latest government guidance and be prepared to act upon any changes. From 1 April onwards free lateral flow testing will be charged for and sold through private market retailers and pharmacies. Free tests will be available for a small number of at-risk groups likely to include those aged over 80 and social care staff.

Sector Specific Guidance 

Sector-specific workplace guidance for various sectors of the economy (as referred to above) must be followed. The Health and Safety Executive has also published advice and guidance relating to COVID-19 which may be useful when considering health and safety measures.

Long Covid & Disability ?

It is very common for individuals with long covid symptoms to suffer  both mentally and physically.  Involve an Occuapational Health Advisor where required, who can recommend reasonable adjustments to support your people. Staff with long covid should be treated as having a disability.  The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s head of employment policy, Rebecca Thomas, said all organisations should presume that an individual’s long Covid symptoms meet the threshold required to be classified as a disability in order to avoid falling foul of equality law.  Although some campaign groups and bodies including the TUC are pressing the government to recognise long Covid as a disability worthy of protection under the Equality Act 2010, Thomas indicated that the condition has not been around for long enough to fully determine whether it can be classified as a long-term impairment.  She added that there was a reluctance from government to specify long Covid as a disability because it is a “fluctuating” condition, where symptoms can come and go.

What can an employer do to support individuals with long covid ?

  • Occupational Health Assessment – Seek professional, medical advice from occupational health
  • GP – Or write to the employee’s GP for further information about their condition
  • Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) – Implement an EAP to support your people.

Symptoms of long COVID

There are lots of symptoms you can have after a COVID-19 infection.

Common long COVID symptoms include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles
  • joint pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • tinnitus, earaches
  • feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • rashes

Non-urgent advice:

Long-term effects of coronavirus (long COVID) – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

Latest content

From 24 March the special COVID-19 sick pay provisions are removed and rules revert to pre-pandemic rules. People with COVID-19 will still be eligible for SSP subject to the normal provisions, but the day-one eligibility for sick pay for those who test positive will no longer apply. This means that those who are unwell with COVID-19 will only be paid SSP from the fourth day of their absence. More information is available in the self-isolation FAQs.

24 March is also the last day employers will be able to make claims through the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.

Please do get in touch for further advice and guidance and/or discuss your Company policies and procedures. 

 

Why Bother ?

Contract of Employment 

As well as being common sense, it is a legal requirement to record the main terms of an employment contract in writing. You need to provide employees and workers with a written statement of employment particulars by their first day of work. This should set out key terms of employment, such as pay, hours, holiday, place of work and notice. Any changes made to the information provided in the written statement, such as an agreed reduction in hours, must be confirmed to the individual in writing within one month of the change.

The employer will be ordered to pay the employee two weeks’ pay (subject to the statutory cap on a week’s pay) or, if it is just and equitable in the circumstances, a higher amount of four weeks’ pay (subject to the statutory cap). If there are exceptional circumstances where it would be unjust and inequitable to make an award against the employer, none will be made.

If you don’t do this, the employee can make a claim at an employment tribunal where compensation of 2 or 4 week’s pay may be awarded;

Company up to date Policies, Procedures & Staff Handbook

Why is it important to implement these documents and keep them up to date?

Policies provide a positive framework and structure for a business. Policies are important in a workplace as it helps reinforce and clarify the standards expected of employees and help employers manage staff more effectively as it defines what is acceptable and unacceptable in the workplace.

  • They set Expectations – Policies and procedures allow an employer to commit to writing the company’s values and mission.  They also set standards of behaviour, conduct and performance for employees;
  • Keep management accountable – This provides guidance to managers for how they are to conduct themselves and the standards they will be held to, but also provides transparency to the rest of the workforce as they can see the standards expected of their leaders and what they can in turn expect from their managers;
  • Ensure compliance with the law – Policies and procedures that are regularly reviewed and updated will assist a company in meeting its obligations at law;
  • Let employees know where to turn for help – Finally, policies and procedures let employees know where they can turn to for help.  All policies should have a point of contact for queries relating to that policy so employees know who they can contact with questions.

Did you know you can also attach your Company Documents to Our Craven HR Software to streamline your processes and make it easier for Your people 

Craven HR Software – Online HR System

Another Great Blog here 

Why do you need HR as an SME or Start Up?

Points of frustration for HR during COVID-19

XpertHR Survey Results 2021

The response of the HR community to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been to put people first, while also supporting business continuity during exceptional circumstances. It is unsurprising then, that wellbeing tops the priority poll for the profession for the coming year, coupled with employee engagement.

HR professionals told us that they had to deal with many frustrations when trying to drive their response to the pandemic. These have centred on four areas:

  • Lack of clarity on the complex guidance issued by the Government, sometimes at short notice. HR had to interpret, implement and be the point of information for this within the organisation.
  • Increased workload as a result of having to juggle existing tasks on top of responding to COVID-19, with no appreciation of the extra work created and covered.
  • Concerns around the consequences of a lack of day-to-day interaction with colleagues and employees as a result of remote working or social distancing while in the workplace.
  • Tensions between HR and senior management teams around priorities. HR told us that leaders were, at times, lacking in concern around the impact of the pandemic on employees, which has led to more issues around engagement, wellbeing and productivity.

Looking forward for 2021 and beyond, the participants anticipated their focus being on:

– a continuing emphasis on employee wellbeing and dealing with Covid;

– addressing the future balance of flexible and hybrid home/office working, as more people returned to the office through the Autumn and early Winter; and

– with rapidly emerging and widespread, intensifying labour shortages, a greater emphasis on and investment in learning and development, so as to ‘grow more of our own’.

They also foresee a stronger future emphasis on diversity and inclusion policies, so as to better meet their staffing needs for growth and to address the growing emphasis on fairness emerging from the highly unequal health and economic experiences of the pandemic.

HR roles survey: Response to the coronavirus pandemic and priorities for 2021 | Survey analysis | Tools | XpertHR.co.uk

#hrforsme #covid19 #coronavirus #pandemic #healthandsafety #employeewellbeing #leadership #xperthr #employeeengagement

Isolation Period Cut from 10 Days to 7 Days 

Fully vaccinated Covid sufferers can now cut their 10-day isolation period to seven days, it has been announced.

Under new rules, people in England can take two lateral flow tests 24 hours apart on day six and seven of their quarantine.

Self-isolation for COVID-19 cases reduced from 10 to 7 days following negative LFD tests – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Temporary change to Fit-notes

For Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), where employees go off sick on or after 10 December 2021, employers can only ask employees for proof of sickness (such as a fit note) after 28 days of sickness (including non-working days). Proof of sickness cannot be requested earlier than 28 days.
Fit notes do not have to be provided for DWP benefit claims until 27 January. This will not affect claims to benefit.
These changes are to give GP’s more time to work on the Coronavirus (Covid-19) booster programme.

Claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to your employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

This scheme will be reintroduced from mid-January 2022. Further guidance will be available as soon as possible.

Claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to your employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Why not use Our powerful, Affordable & User Friendly HR Software?

The implementation of a GDPR compliant HR Software Information System (HRIS) such as Craven HR, is a key driver in moving a business forward, in terms of data management, HR streamlined processes and improved employee engagement.

KPI’s

Without a HRIS, it is not currently possible to capture accurate HR performance metrics that are strategically aligned with a business, many businesses simply do not have the accurate data. Without the correct data you cannot measure key information and provide Company KPI’s, which are a fundamental and positive business tool.

The purpose of HR KPI’s is to optimise recruitment and selection processes, workplace and people management/employee engagement initiatives etc. By constantly measuring and tracking these metrics, you can gauge whether your current HR practices are proactively making a positive impact, the stability of your business and staff; and ultimately the business’s profitability.  

Restricting Data Access 

Restricting data access strictly to what’s required for each job role is essential to prevent a sensitive and serious data breach. By giving staff access to personal and or sensitive data who don’t legitimately need it for the performance of their duties, you could create a situation that could put highly confidential information at risk. 

Risk Management  & GDPR

To manage this risk, follow best practice and to ensure GDPR compliance, please find the following advice and guidance; 

  • Implement an appropriate and affordable HRIS –  Such as Craven HR Software;
  • Avoid multiple different places to store personal data – Recording of personal and/or sensitive employee data on spreadsheets is advised against due to high risk of data breaches – a HRIS would solve this;
  • Restrict staff access to personal and or sensitive data – Define who definitely needs access to the employee personal and or sensitive employee information for their job role; and what is/are the legitimate and valid reason/s?- A HRIS has different security settings for staff;
  • Appropriate security should be in place, to avoid unauthorised sharing of information – A HRIS would solve this;
  • Ensure that all staff who access confidential data know how to safeguard it and why, including appropriate training – Training should be arranged for key staff;
  • Privacy Statement – Implement and communicate.

Why should we implement a HRIS?

Benefits for Line Managers;

  • Better use of your time – Streamlines and automates those repetitive and time-consuming people management tasks; 
  • Stay Secure, GDPR Compliant – Less risk, all your employees’ data safely in one place ;
  • Welcome new employees - Create onboarding new starter checklists, send out offer letters and contracts​; 
  • Engage your staff – Self Service – Give your people a system with their data, they can access anytime, anywhere ; 
  • Cloud Ecosystem – HR software that links to Xero and Quickbooks; 
  • Easy to use & mobile friendly – Access information quickly, anytime, from anywhere; 
  • Make payroll painless – Run your entire payroll in just 5 simple steps; 
  • Competitive edge – Think about it… You want to attract and retain top talent, but your tech is way behind your competitors​. 

Empowerment increases autonomy for Line Managers ie;  

  • Manage timesheets/schedules/authorise overtime;
  • Request salary/job changes; 
  • Authorise/cancel Annual Leave (and other leave); 
  • Add employee sickness absence;
  • Complete a RTWI (Return to Work Interview); 
  • Complete Performance Management ie; One to One Meetings, Probationary Reviews and Appraisals;
  • Reduction in sickness absence – It is a deterrent when employees can visibly see how much sickness absence/triggers they have.

Benefits for employees;

  • Communication tool – Important Company notices/announcements – improves employee engagement’;
  •  Self Service – visible employee information – employees feel more in control;
  •  Access and update their own personal information – reduction in errors;
  •  Access timesheet/weekly schedule – improves engagement;
  •  Annual leave/other leave is important, employees can view their leave; balance and apply for leave online – speedier process, improves employee engagement;
  •  Complete self-certification – speedier process, improves employee engagement;
  •  Access Company Policies and Procedures – improves communication;
  •  Identify and contact other staff – improves communication.

Interested ? We hope so, please get in touch to discuss how we can help you work Smarter not Harder with Craven HR Software including Payroll (or not).

Craven HR Software – Online HR System – Craven HR Services (cravensafetyservices.co.uk)

 

 

The Home Office has further delayed the end date of the temporary right to work check measures to April 5th 2022, from August 31st 2021.

The UK’s Home Office has further delayed the end date for the temporary right to work check measures to April 5th, 2022. The current temporary right to work check process involves the worker submitting a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email to the employer. The employer can then conduct a video call with the worker during which they would hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents.

These measures have allowed employers flexibility when checking and recording the individual’s right to work in the UK whilst also providing a ‘statutory excuse’ against any potential illegal working claims.

Other measures included:

Record on file that checks have carried out ‘adjusted checks on [date] due to COVID-19’
If the worker has a biometric residence permit/card or status under the EU settlement scheme, checks can be conducted using the Home Office’s online right to work checking service while doing a video call – permission must be sought from the applicant.
The Home Office intends to develop a new digital right to work check solution by April 2022, which will account for those who cannot currently use the online right to work checking system, including British and Irish nationals.

Starting April 6th 2022, it is expected that employers will need to either check the employee’s original documents or check the employee’s right to work online. It is understood that employers will need to either check the employee’s original documents, use this new digital solution, or use the online right to work checking system – once the employee has provided the employer access to view their details on the system. The checks must be completed in the presence of the employee, either in person or via video call.

The Home Office will release new guidance ahead of April 6th 2022.

Employers should review internal processes to ensure that they are able to resume checks at the relevant time and ensure that they review files to ensure compliant adjusted checks are completed between March 30th 2020, and April 5th 2022.

We would recommend that the verification of identity and requirements to apply for a DBS check are conducted at the same time as the right to work check, to remove any unnecessary requirements for applicants to present documentary evidence.

We strongly urge all Employers to continue to refer to the Home Office Guidance link below, to ensure they remain compliant with immigration rules on checking right to work during this time.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): right to work checks – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Workers in the food sector to be exempt from self isolation rules
Workers in key sectors, and particularly in the food supply chain, will still be allowed to go to work if they have been told to self isolate by NHS test and trace so long as they test negative for coronavirus.
The new exemptions, which are expected to come into force this week, are in response to widespread concerns that critical businesses could be forced to close because of staff shortages caused by individuals being told they need to self isolate.
What is HR ? Really, why do we need it as an SME?
There are literally 3 unique ‘people’ elements to protect Your business & Your people
1. Talent – Do you have the right people, with the right skills, in the right job roles?
2. Organisation – Do you have the right culture, are Your people happy, motivated, positive & ‘tip top’ productive, to win the market right now?
3. Leadership – Do you have the right leadership & people management capabilities & management style, to maintain or support your business growth, to reach ultimate Success & keep up with Your Competition?
We thrive on helping you to build a positive & healthy culture; by implementing and slotting together, the various components like a jigsaw, we support and help you to move away from directive management (if this is the case) to holding developmental coaching conversations).
Interested? Then get in touch now for a friendly chat with Dee Newton, Our HR Consultant.