31st Mar 2020 | Articles

Sara Ibrahim answers some of the questions on employment concerns during covid-19 that employers and employees should be considering during this period.

Employment concerns during COVID-19

The global nature and the virulence of the COVID19 outbreak has had far reaching consequences for businesses and workers alike. Our first thoughts will naturally be about the safety and health of our families, friends, and colleagues. At the same time, the pandemic is moving so quickly that businesses need to take action. It will be tempting for businesses to make decisions quickly and revisit them when the crisis abates or slows, as some experts anticipate will happen over the summer. Questions of a business’ viability will be paramount, especially with cashflows threatened in many cases, but they must be consideredalongside continuing legal duties to employees. Below I touch upon some of the questions employers and employees should be considering during this period.

What does the government’s guidance about working from home mean for me?

The government published its guidance on staying at home and away from others on Monday 23rd March. It is available in full here. Going to work is one of the four reasons a person can leave their home “but only where the work they do absolutely cannot be done from home.” In the majority of cases, businesses and workers are being encouraged to use IT, where possible, to enable remote working.

There are certain categories of jobs that are explicitly mentioned as requiringtravelling to work,such as construction or manufacturing. Even where your business does fall into this category, it is worth considering other measures that can help enable your employees and workers to comply with the guidelines on social distancing, includingstaggered starting and finishing times. This is particularly helpful for those employees or workers who have no choice other than to use public transport and who are therefore likely to be in closer proximity to other people.

For those businesses whichare able to migrate to remote working, they should be cognisant of continuing responsibilities including data security. The Information Commissioner’s Office has provided answers to some common questions here. Employees and workers should also be reminded of proper procedures on data security including proper disposal of sensitive documentation and ensuring their monitors or screens when they are reviewing sensitive information are not visible to others. If you do have a written policy on data security, this should be circulated to all staff working remotely with suggestions as to how adaptions can be made for home working

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