We are aware that at the moment disputes are becoming commonplace due to Covid-19. Employers have been thrown a curve ball and there is no denying the situation did and still is taking businesses by surprise.
We take a closer look at varying disputes that are arising from Covid-19, how matters can escalate when not planned and or prepared for and what causes these.
What common disputes are arising?
- Refusal to return to work;
- Discrimination claims;
- Redundancy claims;
- Civil claims for personal injury; and
- Interventions by HSE.
What can you do to prepare and avoid disputes?
All Businesses need to undertake and implement a thorough Covid-19 risk assessment, you need to be able to demonstrate it was completed by a competent person and that they are up to date with HSE [https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/risk-assessment.htm] and government guidance.
As part of your risk assessment, you need to factor in your working arrangements, this would include shift patterns, working from home arrangements, remote working, and working in confined areas.
The risk assessment needs to cover psychological risk factors, this would need to allow for stress and not just the physical risk of spreading the virus within your workplace. You should consult with your Employees and or representatives in relation to the risk assessment and it is an offence no to do this, it will also alleviate any disputes by including them in the process.
It is a good idea to appoint a single point of contact for advice and guidance for your Employees, this may be an impartial person such as an external HR Professional.
Keep your records up to date
As a minimum you should be ensuring you have evidence of how you have communicated to your Employees, this should include your risk assessment and the measures you have in place.
You would also include the signage and other measures written or verbal to Employees, visitors, and or customers.
Your communication and evidence should demonstrate what action you would/have taken should the measures not be observed, this would predominantly be in the case of your Employees your updated Disciplinary and associated policies in your Handbook.
All risk assessments do need to be regularly reviewed and as Covid-19 and the advice changes rapidly you should ensure one single point of access is allocated for these along with your communication and evidence. You should keep a trail of updated editions (note down the date, reference, and the basis for the revision) in case you receive an inspection, an Employee claim or personal injury claim.
Prioritise your Employees
Communicating with your Employees is crucial and can never be underestimated. Everyone has been affected by Covid-19, but every experience will be unique to each Employee.
It will be highly likely that your workplace will have changed in some way, personal circumstances and individual perception will mean no two Employees have had the same experience, the only way to assess the impact and the measures required is to consult with each person.
By doing this it will enhance a sense of wellbeing amongst your team, which will reduce the risk of Employee disputes arising later. Paying attention to individual needs is important in the decision-making process along with a fair and consistent approach.
Do not make decisions based on protected characteristics and consider whether the measures in place disadvantage any particular groups.
Getting ready for the future
Adopting or integrating a plan for the future should ensure you will be prepared for the future in any eventuality.
You may already have a similar plan or ‘Business Continuity plan’ in place already, if so you can add your Covid-19 actions for the future.
As part of this you can draw from your lessons learnt, your successes and what actions you needed to take in the future to ensure you are prepared. Your plan should contain external parties along with your policy framework as it should be a living breathing document that works in your Business.
We can help
We can help and assist you in any aspect of Covid-19, from advice and guidance in HR and Employment Law to Risk Assessment Planning and implementation. We can also provide you advice and practical guidance in relation to Business Continuity planning.
Why not get in touch with a member of the team, you can reach us on: 0333 006 9489 or email us at [email protected]