Summary

The outbreak of the coronavirus has created real challenges for businesses. From a people perspective, employers need to bear in mind both employment law and health and safety obligations.

Our top 5 HR tips are:

  1. Restrict non-essential travel to high risk areas – for example, many UK employers at present operate a very restrictive policy on travel to mainland China, and strongly discourage non-essential travel to Asia in general.
  2. Quarantine staff who have returned from specified infected zones for a period – for example, require staff to work remotely from home for a 14 day period following their return. If the nature of their role means they are unable to work remotely, the general principle is that employees who are ready and willing to work are entitled to continue to be paid. Note however that an employer’s obligations in this regard depend on the actual contractual employment terms in place.
  3. Deal appropriately and sensitively with staff who refuse to come to work for fear of infection – employers should listen to concerns staff may have and look to resolve genuine issues constructively. Ultimately, however, employers are entitled to discipline staff who refuse to obey a reasonable management instruction to come to work.
  4. Minimise disease transmission within the office – remind staff to maintain hygiene standards, and consider installing hygiene facilities such as hand sanitisers at exit and entry points and enhancing existing office cleaning services.
  5. Deal with discriminatory behaviours – monitor complaints or grievances which could indicate discriminatory behaviour towards employees of Asian origin.

For more information on managing the HR challenges arising from the coronavirus outbreak, please feel free to get in touch.