COVID-19 & the workplace – what can my business do?

August 31, 2021

Whilst we slowly try to return to normality, the pandemic continues to provide its challenges. Business owners and managers need to remain ‘on-guard’ to keep the workplace safe, productive and harmonious.

So, what are the biggest remaining challenges for SMEs?

1. Safety 

Even as infection rates continue to decrease, the virus is still out there, and the implementation of robust precautions is as important as ever.

Risk Assessments must be revised regularly to ensure that they capture and comply with new requirements and remain relevant to how and where the workforce are carrying out their jobs. 

Workplace Security will rely upon good cleaning and hygiene regimes, effective space management, adequate ventilation and unambiguous communication of rules and expectations.

Public-facing Operations will also have a duty of care to ensure the continued protection of visitors, guests or customers, as well as employees.

2. Staff leave and isolation

After 12 months of travel being almost impossible and varying uncertainty about permitted destinations, the subject of leave has the potential to be contentious and difficult to handle.

Preparing for the holiday stampede

With many months of leave stockpiled, it’s expected that there will be a rush to book holidays when travel restrictions are relaxed. Businesses will have to think carefully about how requests are to be addressed, balancing the needs of the business and the general well-being of employees who may not have had a break for nearly two years.

Deciding on a system

From a simple ‘first-come-first-served’ system to the restriction and cancellation of holidays if they are difficult to accommodate, there are a number of ways in which the management of leave may be approached. Where leave is to be cancelled it has to be remembered that notice periods are applicable - double the actual holiday duration- so this in itself could prove difficult in practice.

Understanding individual needs

Non-British nationals may require leave to visit family members, attend funerals or care for elderly or at-risk relatives overseas. Even in such unconventional times, it is imperative that these employees do not feel like they are being discriminated against and thought must be given to their potentially heightened need for leave.

Allowing for isolation periods

For some destinations, the isolation period upon return can make a two week holiday result in nearly a month away from work. Those who can work remotely can simply return to their role during isolation, but for others the question arises as to whether they need to take additional annual leave, or unpaid leave (especially if the travel was to a country known to be on the amber or red list).

Of course, the rules are ever changing and the most recent update means that instead of self-isolating, those who are double jabbed and under 18s identified as close contacts of positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases are advised to get a free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test as soon as possible. Those who aren’t vaccinated – or have only had one dose of the vaccine, must still isolate for 10 days.

When it comes to COVID policies on leave, or indeed on sick pay when isolation due to contact is required, the business’s approach must always be well-thought out in advance, clearly communicated and applied fairly across the board. 

Need help? Get in touch!

At CoLaw we use our experience and expertise to help business owners and managers to cope with this ever-changing landscape, providing guidance to ensure that clients feel confident, compliant and protected. If we can offer you this reassuring level of support then get in touch via www.colaw.co.uk

The information provided in all of our blogs reflects only a narrative of some elements to consider on the topic. The blogs do not contain considered legal advice and should not be relied upon as advice. Please see our website terms and conditions for full details of our disclaimer. If you are interested in obtaining advice, please contact one of our lawyers who will be happy and able to advise you on your own particular circumstances.