According to the World Health Organisation, as of March 1, 2020, the Coronavirus that originated in Wuhan City in China, has spread to an estimated 59 countries and infected over 87,000 people globally.
While there are practical steps individuals can take, creating a safe place and system of work as employers can be a lot more complex. Furthermore, from an employment law perspective, this outbreak also carries with it a number of common law and statutory duties that need to be to taken care of to ensure the welfare of your workforce.
Here are 6 simple steps you can take as HR leaders to deal with the Cornonavirus threat in the workplace:
- Encourage Good Hygiene Standards:
As employers, this is probably the most important and easiest step you can take. Increase cleaning rotas and review general hygiene standards especially in the communal areas of the workplace such as elevators, meeting rooms, cafeterias, etc.
- Reevaluate Remote Work Policies:
Employers and HR should reevaluate work from home policies, and provide employees with the flexibility of working remotely, at least until the threat is contained. Furthermore, it is essential to be more understanding of employees with children, whose daycares or schools might remain closed during these times.
- Limit Travel:
Several global companies including Facebook had limited travel to China in the early days of the virus’s outbreak, however, as the pandemic continues to spread across borders, other companies should also broaden steps to avoid nonessential work travel.
- Ensure Real-Time Public Health Education:
The spread of false rumours or fears amongst your workforce can be as deadly as the virus itself. Therefore, employee communications that provide real details about COVID-19, including FAQ’s that answer simple questions such as how the virus is transmitted and possible precautionary measures, should be broadcasted by HR to even those employees who are not at the worksite.
- Provide Employee Support:
HR should look into creating temporary pandemic specific policies such as sickness absence policies or support employees who might need time off to care for dependents. Furthermore, HR can also look into having an on-site doctor, and make any other required internal arrangements for the safety of their workforce.
- Take Measures to Prevent Possible Racism:
Given that Coronavirus originated in China, it is no surprise that xenophobia and racism against Asians are on the rise. HR should remain vigilant & proactively plan to avoid any possibility of employee harassment in the workplace. Here’s a guide released by WHO that contains tips on addressing the stigma, along with general recommendations and advice for the public.
In conclusion, while this global issue continues to unfold over the coming months, as HR leaders of your organisation it is always best to have proactive measures in place to provide your employees with a safe and healthy work environment. We hope you start by implementing these simple yet effective measures in your organisation.