As the UK Government ramps up measures to deal with the coronavirus and the country enters “epidemic suppression”, we are seeing people stay away from public places and more businesses start to close indefinitely.
With numbers of those infected rising on a daily basis, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the measures required to curb the outbreak will come at a profound social and economic cost.
Each of us has a responsibility on a personal level to prevent the virus spreading, but for those running an SME, this can be an overwhelming period.
The following guidance is designed to assist SMEs in 3 key areas in responding to the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak; managing people, managing organisational impact and the government finance packages aimed at supporting SMEs.
With official guidelines changing on a daily basis, it is important to check the GOV.UK site daily to ensure that you and your staff are following the latest advice.
Here are some of the most important things to pay attention to when considering the health and wellbeing of your staff and any members of the public that may come into contact with your business.
For SMEs especially, it is essential that the short-term costs of disruption (including decisions on when to close, send staff home etc) are balanced with the benefits of acting proactively in an attempt to slow the spread of infection.
Whilst larger businesses have the luxury of prioritising the latter, it must be acknowledged that many SMEs do not.
The following advice is designed deal with operational disruptions, and manage their organisational impacts as efficiently as possible, giving your business every chance of successfully weathering the outbreak.
Developing and implementing an action plan
Identify your main vulnerabilities
Understand how prepared you are
Puts your plans into place
Keep staff informed
(*Timelines can be adapted as per the situation)
When drawing up your plan, you may wish to consider the following:
Hours of work
You should specify to staff exactly when they will need to be available for work. For example, will they need to observe strict office hours, have complete flexibility over when they work, or have certain “core hours” when they must be available. Will they be required to account for their time and if so, how will this be managed?
You will need to consider whether or not your staff will be entitled to expenses for travel to the office or a contribution towards other costs such as telephone, broadband, heating etc. Other expenses to consider include postal/delivery, stationery and photocopying/printing costs. Managing these types of expenses may greatly impact the overall financial impact on your business.
Confidentiality, data protection and security
This can be difficult to supervise remotely so you may wish to include so you may wish to consider a policy (if you do not already have one) to address what is considered confidential information and the necessary protections required, such as passwords, encryption, a secure filing cabinet, a shredder etc and make sure data sure data.
Public liability insurance
Lastly, remember to check that your employer’s liability insurance covers employees working from home. Make sure your actions (or any lack of action) don’t invalidate the insurance. Your broker will be able to arrange this cover if needed.
Sick pay, absence and leave
If a staff member is sick and has been advised to self-isolate, they will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one - instead of day four - as a minimum. This will also apply if you employ agency staff and/or zero-hour contract staff.
Staff working from home will be entitled to full pay, but as an employer you are not obliged to allow for time off or unpaid leave.
Whilst everyone is likely to demonstrate support for their staff, fellow colleagues and customers, as an employer you should bear in mind that if staff refuse reasonable requests, you may be entitled to take disciplinary action.
With such a fast changing situation, we would encourage you to monitor the ACAS website here for the latest employer/employee advice.
In order to support SMEs, the government has set out a number of measures which may be applicable to you, including:
The situation is moving quickly, and further government measures are likely to be announced over the coming days.
Check here for details of government support measures for SMEs.
Further links you may find useful:
This Guide has been produced by Health and Safety Click, GRP Group’s, in house SME risk management solutions provider.
This valuable online service facilitates the creation of bespoke online policies, risk assessments and procedures and covers a range of risk areas including:
For further information see https://www.healthandsafetyclick.net or speak to your GRP Group broker.