A CIPD and People Management magazine survey of 640 HR professionals found that 40% of firms had no contingency plan to manage a pandemic.
A follow-up survey of 390 employers found that staff anxiety was now the single biggest challenge employers face (63%).
Key coronavirus survey findings
- Contingency planning: 39% of them had no business contingency plan in place to deal with the outbreak; half reported a comprehensive level of pandemic preparedness, but 21% said their level of preparedness was non-existent
- Communication: 1 in 10 companies had yet to send out any communications about the virus; for the majority (71%) who had sent one or two communications, they were trying to avoid causing undue alarm
- Sickness: A third of them have no plan in the event that someone in the team tests positive for Coronavirus, with a fifth yet to decide what to pay staff who are self-isolating
- Disruption: While most (60%) were encouraging "business as usual", 34% had cancelled non-essential external meetings, 23% had cancelled large external events (e.g. conferences) and 13% were cancelling internal events (e.g. town halls)
With this in mind, we have examined the impact of the pandemic to understand how companies and individuals should deal with similar events in the future.
1. Pandemic action points for employers
- Remote-working/Self-isolation - consider how best to manage any quarantine if employees need to self-isolate (stay at home) for 14 days. Employers should find a way to allow staff to work remotely if possible in order to prevent further transmission.
- Environment - assist and encourage your team to keep their environment as clean as possible. Provide ample resources to enable them to regularly clean all frequently-touched areas, such as desk surfaces, door handles, kitchens, phones, keyboards, toilets and showers. Remember if providing hand sanitiser if needs an alcohol content of 60% or more to be effective.
- Cleanliness - remind colleagues to follow good hygiene practices, including sneezing into a tissue and washing their hands (20 seconds at a time) often to avoid spreading germs.
- Cyber-vigilance - warn staff to watch out for coronavirus-related phishing attacks. Cybercriminals are quick to exploit people's fear of the virus and are known to have already launched attacks impersonating the official Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation to try and steal credentials.
- Maintain HR standards - remind employees that the usual sickness absence rules apply and disciplinary action will be taken against anyone who tries to take unauthorised absence without a legitimate need.
- Follow advice - keep up-to-date with official health and travel advice by visiting the FCO website and specialist third parties (e.g. ControlRisks).
- Decide how to manage work-related travel - for example, international business travel, conferences and events with large numbers of people in attendance, etc.
- Postpone or avoid unnecessary cross-border travel - do not put yourself or others at unnecessary risk by visiting anywhere the coronavirus has been confirmed to be present. Explore other options (e.g. teleconferencing and collaborative apps such as Skype) to conduct business with such areas remotely instead.
- Beware of indirect discrimination - if you decide to impose a ban on all travel to China, how will you ensure measures are legal, proportionate, and do not indirectly discriminate against people of Chinese origin, particularly anyone making personal trips?
- Highlight harassment policies - remind staff of our zero-tolerance approach to harassment on the grounds of race and discrimination. There have been reports of an increase in harassment and discrimination, remind everyone that unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated.
2. Pandemic action points for employees
- Act responsibly - if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, contact your manager to find out what arrangements have been made (i.e. whether you should remain at home for 14 days to self-isolate) to prevent further transmission. But remember that the usual sickness absence rules apply and disciplinary action will be taken against anyone who tries to take unauthorised absence without a legitimate need.
- Keep your environment as clean as possible - regularly clean all frequently-touched areas, such as desk surfaces, door handles, kitchens, phones, keyboards, toilets and showers, to avoid spreading infection.
- Follow good hygiene practices - such as sneezing into a tissue and washing your hands often to reduce the spread of germs. Use a hand-sanitiser where provided.
- Be vigilant - watch out for coronavirus-related phishing attacks. Cybercriminals are quick to exploit people's fear of the virus and are known to have already launched attacks impersonating the official Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation to try and steal credentials.
- Maintain a safe distance from others - during a health crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic, keeping at least a metre away from others will decrease your chance of getting infected.
- Be careful when handling food - make sure to cook all forms of meat and eggs thoroughly in order to prevent passing the virus on via your meals.
- Travel wisely - get advice from your manager or HR team if you have a need to travel anywhere COVID-19 has been confirmed to be present for personal reasons. Where possible, find alternatives - such as by conducting business remotely instead. Apply safe distance where possible, and try to avoid handling money.
- Report concerns - tell your manager if you have come into contact with anyone who is showing signs of the virus.
- Follow official advice - ignoring official health advice in times of crisis could put yourself and others at increased risk.
- Don't panic - by taking sensible precautions and following advice, you can help contain the outbreak.
Useful online pandemic resources
Information for the public on the outbreak of coronavirus in China, including the current situation in the UK and information about the virus and its symptoms.
See the latest HM Government updates
World Health Organisation
Information and guidance with daily updates from WHO regarding the current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Read the WHO advice
Their Coronavirus map shows how Covid-19 is spreading across the world.
See the Guardian Interactive Map
National Travel Health Network and Centre (Department of Health)
Advice for travellers from the UK on preparing to travel abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Read the Travelhealthpro advice
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