Does your business need a Covid HR Strategy?
Posted on: 6th May 2022 by: Demos HR Solutions
There are a number of Covid-19 related changes that have recently come into place affecting employers and workforces including isolation rules and the end of SSP for employees without symptoms. There is also an extension to the online Right to Work checks that employers can continue adhering to until September 2022. With new variants of the virus constantly emerging, and the current number of Coronavirus cases at a record high in the UK, it seems employers may benefit by implementing a specific HR strategy and policies for Covid-19.
Changes to isolation rules and SSP payments
On 29th March 2022, the Government announced that due to the success of the vaccination programme and access to antivirals, alongside natural immunity and increased scientific and public understanding about how to manage risk, the population now has much stronger protection against COVID-19 and thus set out it’s Living with Covid plan effective from 1st April 2022.
This includes the end of free Covid-19 testing to the majority of the population as well as removing the legal requirement to self-isolate, being replaced with advisory guidance that anyone with symptoms of a respiratory infection and a high temperature or who feel unwell, should try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until they feel well enough to resume normal activities and they no longer have a high temperature.
Also from 1st April, anyone with a positive COVID-19 test result is advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least 5 days, however for individuals who need to leave their home when they have symptoms or have tested positive, the Government guidance is to avoid close contact with people with a weakened immune system, wearing a face covering and avoiding crowded places.
In addition to the above there has been a change in rules around Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for self-isolation from 24th March 2022 stating that staff are no longer entitled to SSP for self-isolation, unless they are not well and off sick and that SSP will now be paid from day four – only if the employee has symptoms.
Employer Right to Work checks adjusted for Covid-19
Employers will be aware that during the peak of the pandemic, temporary adjustments were made to Right to Work checks, with the Home Office allowing online and digital checks to be carried out. With the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions however, the legal requirement has changed, and face-to-face checks should be done where possible, but given the increasing number of positive Covid-19 infections across the UK and around the world, where a face-to-face check isn’t possible, the temporary option for online checks has been allowed until 30th September 2022.
Furthermore, following positive feedback of the use of online checks during the pandemic, the Government has set up a system enabling employers to use Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) to carry out digital checks on British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport from 6th April 2022 – the cost of using a digital system will be solely the responsibility of the employer. Another reason for the extension of the temporary online checks is to allow employers sufficient time to develop commercial relationships with identity service providers, make the necessary changes to their pre-employment checking processes and carry out responsible on-boarding of their chosen provider.
Implementing Covid-19 HR Policies
The removal of the COVID-19 restrictions does not change employers’ legal duties to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of their workers, both in the workplace and at home, including management of infection, physical safety and mental wellbeing. The UK Government requires employers to choose mitigations appropriate for the workplace and find their own strategy for managing risk.
Furthermore, when it comes to recruitment and the legal requirement to carry out Right to Work checks, employers need to decide whether they will revert to face-to-face checks or invest in Identification Document Validation Technology.
Bearing all of the above in mind, employers must decide whether:
- They will require employees to isolate if they have symptoms or have tested positive to minimise the spread of the virus in the work premises, and how long employees will be expected to isolate for.
- If employees are required to isolate and have symptoms, will a company sick pay policy be put in place to cover the first three days of sick pay?
- Will working from home be expected if employees have tested positive and are asymptomatic?
- Will they pay staff to remain at home for a short period if the nature of the job means they cannot work from home?
- Do they wish to extend the five-day period in the short to medium term whilst virus rates remain high?
- Employers should also consider how to manage employees suffering from the effects of Long COVID in a similar way to employees with other long-term health conditions, although some extra considerations may be appropriate.
- Are you willing to invest time and money to a digital identity check system to be able to use the new Identification Document Validation Technology?
Here to help
Debbie and the team at Dêmos HR Solutions are available to support employers devise a Covid-19 HR strategy and implement policies covering sick pay, wellbeing and identity checking. Please get in touch with Debbie directly on 07974 695 365, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for professional advice and top tips.
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