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In response to the numerous enquiries we have received over the last 7 days please find a useful bullet point guide to assist.

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Assemble a task force to assist with:

A) training employees/workers to deal with the crisis, their health and their ability to work through it -eg regular communication, following up to date Government / NHS Guidance, checking that they are all feeling well and reassuring employees is paramount.

As employers, you have an absolute duty of care to your employees/ workers and third parties to provide a safe, healthy place to work. It is a wide duty of care, and there is a wealth of case law and statues supporting this.

This includes reminding each worker that they too have an equal and immediate duty of care to inform their line and HR manager if they feel unwell They are also obliged to follow guidance from Government, NHS and their employers to the letter, deliberate failure to do so can result in disciplinary action, depending upon the circumstances. The more the staff cooperate, the more likely your business will be able to function with minimal disturbance and survive this crisis. They must be aware that even when this crisis passes, there will still be ramifications which are likely to affect the business for some time to come.

Teamwork, communication and consideration for others have got to be the business mantra.

B) Risk Assessment: Covid 19 ( Coronavirus ) is a risk that has to be considered as a material risk, which has to be assessed in terms of both control/elimination within the workplace ( see reg 3 Management of Health and Safety at Work Regs 1999) As such you will have to accurately document all the arising and potential issues, task them, record your reaction and actions.

Store these documents securely

C) Regular communication - this is incredibly important Staff must be kept up to date with all developments, which will include alerting them to the fact that a colleague / or recent visitor to the workplace, is self-isolating (should they have recently returned from an infected area) or has been diagnosed with the virus.

However under no circumstances should that employee/individual be identified - they are entitled to an absolute duty of confidentiality As an employer you will have strict GDPR issues to consider.

D) Technology - bring in your tech team to assist - it is likely that you will be considering asking some, if not all, of your staff to work at home. So reliable systems will have to put in place to ensure that this can be achieved quickly, efficiently and with as little disturbance to staff and your business as possible. The focus here will be to keep disruption to the business to an absolute minimum

E) Reorganising staff and workers - This will involve both HR and line management - Consider which of the staff can and are willing to work at home during this period.

Offer flexible / shift working - some can begin at 7 am to avoid the rush hour (and the rush hour crowds), others can begin early afternoon until later in the evening for example. Perhaps there are other locations nearer to their homes, from which the staff can work, which would mean less travelling and less contact with other commuters. Some may be happy to take annual and paid leave during this period.

Sick Pay is also likely to be a thorny issue - carefully scrutinise and update your sick pay policies. Some of your employees/workers will have dependents who may be affected by the virus, so the issue of Dependency leave will also have to be assessed, others who will be voluntary self - isolating will seek sick pay - see Government and ACAS advice on this, which on the whole encourages employers to pay sick pay, if the worker has been advised by a GP, Hospital or the NHS hotline to self isolate.

Again bear in mind that any allegations of unfair treatment or discrimination could give rise to constructive or unfair dismissal or discrimination claims later on There will be the “worried well “amongst your staff, and those of a sensitive nature who will require more reassurance and time. All of your communications with individual staff members about their health and concerns are protected by GDPR. You may well at a later date have to justify collating information about your employee's health, in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of staff, stating the perceived risk as you see it.

Additionally, you may consider it necessary to share information with third parties ( or be asked to do so ) ensure that everything is carefully explained to the worker, confirmed in writing and seek written consent before sharing any information. Please ensure that everything is documented clearly and stored securely.

At the time of writing, the Chancellor of the Exchequer is about to announce his budget, the Bank of England has reduced interest rates to 0.25%, and statutory sick pay will be payable from the first day of sickness rather than the fourth day, so this is likely to be a very fast-moving situation and it’s important to keep up to date.

F) Customer Service - it’s absolutely vital that the outside world knows that you are still open for business, so an efficient, immediately responsive Customer Service provision is vital. Again proactive communication to your customers, advising them of any changes in communication, service provision, opening hours must be sent to clients regularly.

G) Finance - Doubtless, you will be aware of the reduction in interest rates by the Bank of England, but now would be a good time to talk to your bank/finance companies about payment holidays or restructuring to help you get your business through this, contact your accounts, legal team, outside legal advisers and accountants, to see what suggestions they will have. Your business is likely to experience cash flow issues, clients will be experiencing their own issues, so it is best to be proactive, put in place funding arrangements ( or extension of existing funding arrangements ASAP)

H) Insurance - check your insurance policy ( and in particular any exclusions) Covid -19 will be listed as a notifiable disease, according to government, so you may be able to claim for any business losses.

Should you require employment advice as an employer contact Abigail Williams; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. tel 02073872032.

For Commercial advice - contact Jeffrey Lewis: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. tel 02073872032

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