We are currently in an unprecedented situation. The likes of which businesses will not have experienced before.
Increasing numbers of people working from home; employees being furloughed; employees not able to work due to having Coronavirus or displaying symptoms; employees having children at home whilst they work as schools are closed; and businesses not being able to open as a result of government issued coronavirus guidance. Just some of the situations businesses may currently be finding themselves in.
It is vital to get crisis management during the coronavirus right as a business. It will enable you to protect your business and employees. But it is also important to be aware of the legal risks of the decisions that are being taken, particularly when it comes to your employees.
Here we look at some of the key areas to consider which may create legal risks to your business. As well as crisis management and contingency planning during the coronavirus.
What legal risks may employers be open to during the Coronavirus outbreak?
Key areas to keep in mind when making any decision relating to your employees during the coronavirus outbreak include, but are not limited to:
Workers’ rights – Workers’ rights should be given the same level of consideration as in ‘normal’ times. It is important not to lose sight of this when making business decisions. And as a business it is important to give appreciation to the situation as a whole which is challenging and stressful for many.
For example, if your business chooses to make use of the government Job Retention Scheme and you decide to furlough some of your staff, you must consult with the employee and they must agree to be furloughed before you go ahead. Not doing so could leave you open to legal challenge.
Normal employment laws continue to apply. As do equality and discrimination laws.
Pay – there will of course be careful consideration needed if you plan to change an employee’s pay. Employment contracts and normal employment law will need to be referred to. There are also additional considerations around sick pay for those who are self-isolating or those that need to look after someone who is unwell
Welfare – if your employees can still work or are needed to come to work during the coronavirus pandemic then you will need to pay close attention to welfare. As an employer you must follow government guidance and Public Health advice. You‘ll need to carry out risks assessments to determine any hazards arising from Covid-19.
Health and Safety responsibilities – The HSE state employers have the same health and safety duties to those who work from home as they do for those who are office based. So, this is something that will need to be managed if much of your workforce is working from home. Anthony Jones director Steve Green gives his views on employers health and safety responsibilities during the coronavirus pandemic here.
Crisis management and contingency planning during Coronavirus
It goes without saying that at the current time, importance must be placed on the health and wellbeing of employees and customers and how as a business you ensure this. Adhering to government advice will be crucial as well.
Other areas to consider in your planning may include:
- Supply chains – how they are being impacted and alternative options if needed
- Operations – how your day to day operations will be impacted and how, if your business is able to remain open, you adhere to government guidance
- Finances – how your finances will be impacted, your cashflow and access to government loans and grants
- Communication – how you will keep in touch with employees who may not currently being working
Read our recent blog on contingency planning for businesses for more information on this area and building a business continuity plan for your business.
You can also find the government advice to employers and businesses during the Coronavirus pandemic on the gov.uk website.
At Anthony Jones we appreciate that this is a difficult and challenging time for businesses of all sizes. We are updating our blog regularly with areas to consider and thoughts from our directors on different issues. We are also still working so if you need to discuss your insurance policy or your insurance needs with us then you can get in touch with us in the normal ways.