In May the Government published the Return to Work Safely Protocol. This comprehensive document sets out a number of measures that employers must take in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace as we reopen our economy.
The Health Service Authority (HSA) is responsible for ensuring that employers are following the protocol and preparing and putting systems and controls in place. They will also be carrying out workplace inspections to ensure the Protocol is being implemented.
The document and possible inspections pose a new challenge for Human Resources managers. As they try to keep on top of all of the latest advice and guidance relating to how business should adapt to the current environment, it can feel overwhelming. To help, we’ve compiled this list of 8 things that HR managers can do to not only ensure they are compliant with government guidelines but also protect staff and cultivate a safe workplace.
BrightPay Connect is the perfect cloud portal to assist HR managers at this time thanks to its employee app with document sharing functionality. HR managers can send out important COVID-19 related policies, updates, forms and other documents to either a single employee, specific teams or departments, or all employees across the board. They can also track who has read the information sent as a time-stamped log is kept in the cloud.
You can book a free demo of BrightPay Connect for employers today to learn more about how Connect can improve your HR operations.
Communication is key and employees coming back to work are likely to have a lot of questions about everything from how the pandemic has affected their annual leave entitlements to what measures the employer is taking to minimise the risk of exposure in the workplace. You will also have new policies and procedures to share with employees. Not only is a COVID-19 Induction Training Session mandatory, but it is also a great way to share all of this information, answer any questions that employees may have and facilitate discussion. This training is required as set out in the Return to Work Safely Protocol.
This is the key element of your compliance with the Protocol. It is best thought of as a comprehensive catch-all document that deals with all points of relevance relating to COVID-19 and the workplace in one place. This plan needs to outline the following:
Once finalised, this plan should be dispersed amongst employees. A great way to do this is by using the BrightPay Connect employee app.
In addition to creating new policies and procedures, all existing policies should be reviewed. In particular, your Health And Safety, Sick Leave and Annual Leave policies will need to be updated. However, you may find that other policies too need to be tweaked in order to reflect the current workplace environment and to comply with the Government Protocol.
Before your employees return to the workplace, it’s important to send out what are called “Pre-Return To Work Forms”. These forms must be filled out at least 3 days before employees return to work and must include a set of prescribed questions as set out in the Protocol. However, additional questions can be added to cater to your business needs and any unique circumstances that apply to your employees. A Pre-Return To Work Form template has been made available on the HSA website.
Every workplace must appoint at least one lead worker representative. This person, along with management, will be responsible for ensuring that the new COVID-19 measures which have been introduced are strictly adhered to in their place of work by all employees. The HR manager will need to work closely with this person to ensure that they are fully informed of the company's new policies and can share information with other employees in regard to them.
One of the things that many employees are confused about is how the Coronavirus has affected annual leave entitlements. Many employees are worried that they won't accrue leave for the time that they spent on lay-off, or that they won't be able to carry their leave into 2021 despite not being able to book holidays abroad as normal in 2020. The best thing that a HR manager can do to address these worries is to make the businesses position on annual leave very clear from the outset, including any changes that have been made to the existing leave policy.
Again, the BrightPay Connect employee app is the perfect vessel for distributing this information as HR managers can check who has received and read the updated policy and who hasn’t.
Finally, it should go without saying that allowing your employees to work from home is still preferable in all cases where possible. Of course, for many businesses it simply isn’t possible to have all staff working remotely at all times. If your business falls into this category, perhaps you could have employees spend 2 or 3 days per week working from home on a staggered basis, so that there is always someone in the office but never more people than necessary. Where working from home is not an option, make sure to put social distancing measures in place with clear signage to help protect employees.
The key point here is to find what works best for your business and do your absolute best to allow employees to work from home as much as is possible.
On the 25th of June BrightPay held a free webinar to share information on returning to work post-lockdown and what employers and HR managers need to know. You can watch this webinar on demand today to keep up-to-date on the latest advice and guidance.