As you review your workflow strategies, policies and procedures; health and safety of employees should be your first priority – especially when COVID-19 crisis has the world by its neck. Causing businesses to shut, bringing public health systems on the toes, and disrupting human lives like never in quite some time.
First started in Wuhan, China, the novel coronavirus cases have spread throughout the world.
It is high time for HR leaders to take immediate action and update their handbooks to fight COVID-19 at workplace.
Bear these pointers in mind to ready your workplace for fighting coronavirus.
- Tie loose legal ends
Being a laggard in coronavirus prevention won’t be of help. To minimize risk of COVID-19 infection to employees is not only ethically, but legally important. While different rules apply in differing jurisdictions – in the US for instance, employees are protected under OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Act) – not being mindful of these legal implications can invite penalties in the future.
Unprepared businesses and talent leaders may be exposed to lawsuits around compensation, privacy, discrimination, negligence, and more.
If you haven’t already, take note of these general duty clause (and inquire about legislations around it in your region).
- Guide your information through appropriate sources and regulatory authorities. Such as WHO, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, country-specific health advisory.
- Take care of human element. Some countries, such as UK, may ask of companies a duty to assess stress-related risks as well.
- Privacy of data. Employees must understand which data they can disclose of employees who become infected and which not. The duty also falls on the employees to disclose if they are at-risk or have already caught infection.
- Consider adjusting benefits related to leave and pay. If an affected employee exceeds sick-day leaves, evaluating the level of income protection offered by your company and supporting those who must stay at home can alleviate employees’ concerns.
- Take steps to limit face to face interactions and the use of public places (more on this in the points below).
- No to travel and events
Restricting non-essential travels is an obvious and immediate step HR leaders must take to limit virus spread. Verizon, AT&T, Twitter and many other companies have withdrawn their scheduled conferences, and restricted travel.
If the travel isn’t as critical to business, it must not be taken. Especially meetings in virus hotspots. Just in case one is, authorization must be taken from the management and precautionary measures must be taken. This includesself-quarantine after the return. Human Resource professionals must ensure company cover the costs in such cases given most travel insurance policies exclude pandemic.
- Sanitize all the way
To minimize the contagion risk, conduct regular disinfection process over the weekend or every day. As a part of global clean-up operation, Nike shut down its headquarters for deep-cleaning.
- Work from home – learning the hard way
As an emergency work protocol, work from home measures for regions where outbreak has occurred is necessary. The option has come as a respite for business continuity.
For HR managers and leaders, it is also an opportunity to educate themselves about the challenges and opportunities of remote working. This can act as a cost-cutting measure in the future, while taking into account the working style propounded to be preferred by new generations.
That said, many jobs in retail, manufacturing, healthcare, would require employees to be physically present. In those cases, meetings can take place remotely – say video conferencing.
- For business fully halted by virus – like Airways.
HR managers operating in businesses that have seen a major halt in their business activities can propose voluntary salary cuts for management level positions. Reduction in, say transport allowances, operational expenses and delayed investments can be taken up.
- Supervisor training – but keep it remote
As remote working comes into the picture and supply-chain undergoes a disruption, supervisors need to be adequately trained and instructed. Talent managers must make it their priority to train supervisors about implications of COVID-19.
Supervisors must have access to right information (on coronavirus prevention and company policies). There must be a fluid source of communication between upper management and supervisors.
notify local public health authorities about any suspected exposure. A web search for “local health department” and postal code or city or county name will generally yield accurate contact information. In the US, supervisors can also contact the CDC at 800-232-4636 with questions about coronavirus.
- Returning to work
As the work resume, HR leaders will have to ensure no discriminations are made on the grounds of national origin or race. Ensure reasonable restrictions are in place to guide whether an employee who has been ill or exposed can safely return to work. Relevant communication pertaining to this should be documented.
Monitor the situation on a day to day basis, and guide policies accordingly. Only a cognizant HR leadership can save the company and employees in abating this hazard.