The COVID-19 pandemic has expressively transformed workplace practices. In light of this, employers must review and amend existing policies and procedures in their employee handbook where applicable to echo the introduction of adapted ways of working. Some of your staff handbook updates may be provisional to manage urgent issues caused by the pandemic whereas others may become long-lasting as businesses acclimate to a new ‘normal’.
Here are some of the key guidelines and procedures in your employee handbook that need to be reviewed, restructured where necessary, and communicated to staff include:
Sick leave and sick pay
Update your protocol for reporting absences by employees when working from home.
Employees must specify any changes to pay, reporting arrangements and the need to self-isolate if needed.
Health and safety
Staff handbooks always include the health and safety information. In light of Covid-19, you must update the policy and mention what can be done if you experience Covid-19 symptoms. Hygiene practice must also be covered under this section, such as hand washing, sanitising, social distancing measures, PPE and so on.
Employers have a multitude of health and safety obligations relevant to Covid-19 including those under the following legislation:
- Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974;
- The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999;
- The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992;
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992; and
- The Control of Substance Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002
Generally, the main duties from employers is to manage the care of employees and others under their business as rationally viable.
Support remote working where possible
If you did not have a working from home policy in your employee handbook prior to the world pandemic, you might consider introducing one now, as you will most likely have your staff currently working from home. If you already had some protocol in place, then you may want to review the existing flexible working conditions.
Under the working from home policy, you will need to address:
Data Protection – This might need to be restructured to cover protection of data and confidential material whilst working from home and safety measures when conveying data between home and the workplace.
Risk Assessments – All employers are now anticipated to have an up to date risk assessment to contemplate the effect of COVID-19 on their individual businesses and employees. This should be frequently reviewed, updated and any changes communicated in writing to staff.
Mental Health and Well-being of employees – Some employers will want to update this policy or include a new policy to lay out the rules for any employees struggling with mental health due to the pandemic.
Annual leave changes due to Covid-19
Employees will need to be transparent on what will happen if they need to cancel a holiday due to sickness/covid-19 symptoms and what is likely to happen if they book a holiday abroad and then have to self-isolate on their return.
To prevent workers losing their holiday rights under employment and to permit key workers to keep working, the normal rules on carrying over annual leave have been altered.
Alterations to the Working Time Regulations 1998 means that all employees who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19 have a right to carry it over into the next two leave years (2021 and 2022)
Bereavement leave and bereavement pay
As an employer, you must outline the new or updated policy on bereavement leave in light of Covid-19. You may wish to assess this policy in view of the world pandemic and potential loss of life of loved ones.
Employment Law Solicitors for Employee Handbooks
If you need any legal advice on the preparing or updating of your employee handbook, please contact JMR’s employment law team on 0161 491 3933 or contact us by email firstname.lastname@example.org