HR Expert: Covid refresher – a reminder of managing viruses in the workplace

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A client has contacted me after hearing about how the government has moved forward the annual flu and covid vaccination schedule. They are concerned about covid becoming an issue for their business again, and want to make sure they are prepared should cases begin to rise amongst their workforce. Can you offer any tips to help them with this?

With the recent news that the government will be rolling out its covid and flu vaccination scheme a month earlier than planned this year, it’s understandable that some employers may be concerned about covid again. Whilst there is no suggestion that there is any cause for alarm, as Autumn approaches now is a good opportunity for your client to review their position on managing covid and other infectious viruses in the workplace.

In order to protect their workforce, your client might choose (if they haven’t already) to implement a covid specific policy that requires employees to inform them of a positive case and remain home on pay until they test negative, or at least take additional precautionary measures if attending the workplace, such as wearing a face mask, distancing from others and sanitising surfaces regularly.

It will be important as we move into Autumn and this Winter’s flu season to ensure workplace practices are in place to limit the chances of any viruses spreading within the workforce, and that employees are given a refresher on what they need to do to follow these. This is likely to include a reminder to employees of the problems of presenteeism, when an employee attends work when they are too unwell to be there. Not only can this lead to stress and burnout on a personal level, but for those that are office or site based, it can also increase the risk of the illness spreading through the workforce.

There are various steps that your client can take to prevent the transmission of covid, flu and colds in the workplace. These include:

• remaining vigilant about hygiene in the workplace, particularly hand washing
• maintaining good ventilation
• social distancing by keeping a distance between employees and others in the workplace
• encouraging employees to have injections of Covid and Flu vaccines
• other steps such as face coverings
• encouraging employees to work at home or partly at home.

Now that hybrid working has become established in many businesses, a transition to temporary homeworking during a bout of covid or other virus, where the employee is well enough to work but could pass the illness on to others, should be easier for your client to arrange and have little impact on the employees ability to perform their duties. Taking steps now to ensure employees have what they need to work in such a situation would mean there is time to make any additional arrangements, should it be necessary to implement this.

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