Your COVID-19 Business Response Plan could be your most valuable document moving forward. Not only is it important to ensure you have a reliable document to refer to, but it may be something considered in the EVP (Employee Value Proposition) so that staff and candidates know that their safety in the workplace is a business priority.
Thankfully, the current Government easing of restrictions seems to be progressing smoothly, with businesses across all sectors being allowed some flexibility with reopening. On the other hand however, there are still some areas where guidance remains in place, e.g., social distancing rules and the use of face coverings indoors and on public transport.
There are still some areas for you as a business owner to consider and address, such as:
Public health guidance
- Firstly, how will public health guidance impact your business? Consider premises layout, how to control customers who enter and exit your business, and also the return of track and trace documents.
- What will public health guidance require of your staff? Do staff still have to wear masks/other PPE equipment and how will you provide this. If this is a long-term strategy, your policies should reflect the requirements of your business, and therefore may need to be reviewed to ensure compliance with public health messaging.
Advice for your sector
- Each sector will have different rules throughout the different stages of the coronavirus pandemic. For example, indoor hospitality can now resume, but live events still have restrictions in place.
- As part of your COVID-19 Business Response Plan, you’ll need to communicate the relevant rules to staff and keep them abreast of any developments. This will align your business with the regulations and reassure staff that their safety is being looked after.
Dealing with annual leave
- Many employees will have accrued annual leave while on furlough or have not taken their full annual leave entitlement to date. You need to manage this in line with the business needs while also ensuring that you remain compliant with Working Time Regulations.
- While no employer enjoys mandating their employee’s annual leave or refusing requests, remember that you do have the right to mandate when leave is taken. You just need to give the employee double the amount of notice for the amount of leave that you require them to take. For example, if you wish for an employee to take two days off, they must receive four days’ notice.
Dealing with employees who use their leave to travel outside of the jurisdiction
- Regulations are changing across the British Isles at varying rates. There is a move to introduce a ‘traffic light’ system in terms of international travel and there are ongoing discussions around vaccine passports. While the latter is still in its infancy, the traffic light system is beginning to be rolled out.
- You can ask staff if they have been outside of the jurisdiction. Depending on where they have travelled to, they might have to quarantine upon their return to Northern Ireland.
- If employees are found to be difficult in terms of giving over a response, then there are softer ways to approach the issue. Staff should all be aware when taking time off work that their anticipated travel intentions may have an impact on them when they return.
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