NOTE: these FAQs are the guidance we're providing to our HR Advice customers from our CIPD qualified HR Advisors. For more information see here.
This article was written and released on 18/3/2020, please be aware of any subsequent government updates.
COVID-19 has been impacting all of us, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Here at Charlie, we have been receiving many queries about how this will impact businesses and how we can help you all through this difficult time. We wanted to give some high-level information on HR and Coronavirus, and how you can best look after your business and your team in this period.
What should I do if a member of my team has COVID-19?
Firstly, it is now best practice to ensure that if anyone is ill in any way – even if they think it is just a sniffle – they should stay at home and self-isolate for 14 days. It is our collective responsibility to make sure we are doing what we can to protect others. Therefore, no one should be encouraged to come into work if they are ill, as this is putting vulnerable people at risk. For more guidance on what to do if you think someone in your company has COVID-19, please refer to the government advice here.
What sick pay do I pay?
If a team member is sick, self-isolating or unable to work due to Coronavirus (whether that’s if they have it, have symptoms, or someone else in their household has it or has symptoms), they will be eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
SSP will now be paid from the first day of sickness. SSP is £94.25 per week and can be paid for up to 28 weeks. New measures have been introduced so that for businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of SSP per employee will be refunded by the government in full.
This is on the basis that you don't have a company policy. If you do have a company sick pay policy in place, that will take precedence.
By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness, and after this it is down to the discretion of the business. However, we would advise that you shouldn’t be asking someone for evidence if they are self-isolating due to coronavirus – that would require them to go to the doctors, putting others at risk if they are sick.
Should we be working flexibly?
If you can, you should now begin to be working from home or working remotely to begin social distancing. This is widely recognised as the most prosocial step companies can take to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and lessen its impact.
This will look different for everyone, depending on how your business is run. It is best to communicate these changes via a team meeting before you begin.
Routine is very important when working remotely. Establishing what your day will look like and what goals everyone has for the week will ensure work is being completed. Working flexibly is all about trust and, by setting clear boundaries and expectations for your team, the transition to working from home will be a lot easier.
You are required to provide adequate equipment for your team to carry out their job, such as laptops and monitors. At this time it is probably best for your team to purchase their own and expense this to the company, but this is down to your discretion.
Some of your team may require more flexibility for start and finish times due to caring for dependents, and you should discuss with them any reasonable adjustments that can be made. An example of making reasonable adjustments would be changing the start and finish times for team members with children so they can carry out the school run.
What Health & Safety requirements are necessary whilst working from home?
As an employer, you have a duty of care to make sure your team members are looked after, even when they working from home.
A lot of work carried out at home usually is low-risk, and you are only responsible for the equipment you supply. You’ll need to ensure the equipment you provide is in good condition and safe to use.
It’s also your responsibility to encourage your team members to take regular breaks when working from home and make sure you make the necessary reasonable adjustments. For example, if a team member doesn’t have a monitor and they need one, you would need to provide one for them.
What if I can’t operate anymore?
If your business is going through financial difficulty and you need to cut costs as soon as possible, you have a few options you can explore:
- Asking team members to take unpaid leave (they need to consent to it)
- Adjusting hours/salary temporarily with all team members’ consent to keep the business afloat
- Short-term lay-off (if you have this clause covered in your contract)
The new Coronavirus Job Retention scheme allows you to continue to pay employees’ salaries for those that would otherwise have been laid off due to the crisis. The government has also announced that it will be offering additional loans to support small businesses during this time. For further information have a look at the government plans.
If you’re thinking of implementing any of the above, please speak to us and we’ll be more than happy to advise you on next steps.
How to adapt to working from home as a business?
For many companies, working remotely is an entirely new concept.
It’s important to remember that working from home can be good for business too, as it contributes to cutting costs and to improving work-life balance for team members.
Obviously, given current circumstances, it can be tricky to adjust to a new way of working in such a short period of time. Not having your team on-site means that ultimately you will have to trust them to get their job done. If you do have any concerns about performance, you can still raise these and it should still be monitored. However any serious conversations or action may need to be put on hold.
What is Team Charlie currently doing?
Charlie is currently operating a working from home policy for a minimum of two weeks. This will be reviewed in line with government guidance.
From a practical perspective we are having team meetings virtually using Google Hangouts for video calling and using Slack as a means of keeping in touch.
With no commute and without the hustle and bustle of being in an office, we’ll all have a bit more time in our days. There are many ways you can keep morale up as a company. Having video calls is a great way to keep up the human interaction, but small fun quizzes or activities are also a great idea - you could even have a virtual book club or movie screening!
So how have we at Charlie been making the most of it?
- We’ve been active on Slack and have been coming up with a daily question or challenge that everyone participates in to keep positive; they’re usually small and fun
- On Slack we have set up a ‘Random’ Channel in order to chat and continue the banter we would have in the office (lots of pets have made an appearance!)
- We're encouraging more exercise - a stretching video from home, a walk or a run (we also have a team member running virtual yoga classes)
- We're cooking more! (We have another team member doing a live cooking class on Google Hangout)
- We're using usual morning commute time to read a book, maybe write a journal or a letter to someone we haven’t spoken to for ages
- We are making use of Spill - a fantastic online text based therapy service
- Charlie has also given everybody an extra £100 wellbeing budget to allow staff to spend on things that will help them feel more excited to work remotely - this could be a plant or a candle or even drawing materials!
What resources can I provide for support?
During these unsettling times, it’s nice to send reminders to everyone to look after their mental health as well as their physical health. It’s also a good time to encourage team members to use any well-being services they have access to.
Here are some other further resources that may be useful:
Great advice for working from home from successful companies who always operate remotely
Good podcasts for mental health (recommended by Calm)
Helpful information for maintaining good wellbeing:
- COVID-19 wellbeing support
- Coronavirus and your wellbeing | Mind, the mental health charity - help for mental health problems
Some useful apps for mental health
We hope this has provided you with some more clarity on how your business can navigate this difficult time, and we are here to help.
Take care and stay safe,
Team Charlie x