27 March 2020 - Article
Recent events, including clouds of volcanic ash, record snowfalls, rail strikes, and a potential swine flu epidemic, have caused major disruption to UK employers.
To help organisations with contingency planning, we set out below a checklist of some of the employment-related issues that could arise in a contingency planning exercise.
- Consider whether and how to involve employees with planning.
- Use any existing consultation mechanisms such as staff councils or trade unions.
* Illness, injury and epidemics*
- Check your absence and sickness policies and payment levels they commit you to.
- Consider the impact of large numbers of employees being absent unexpectedly.
Closed schools and sick dependants
- Check your policies on time off when care arrangements fall through or dependants fall ill.
- Remember the statutory rights that employees might rely on: holiday, time off in emergencies or parental leave.
- Consider whether you could sustain more generous contractual rights in a large-scale emergency.
Travel disruption and remote working
- Draw up reporting rules that will apply to employees who cannot get to work.
- Draw up a remote working policy or adapt any existing policy for emergencies.
- Decide which jobs can be done remotely.
- Make sure there is enough technological support for key employees to work away from the office.
- Set out absence and payment policies for employees who cannot work remotely.
Health, safety and security
- Issue guidelines on health and safety to employees working remotely.
- Put in place measures to protect confidential information from accidental disclosure or loss.
- Consider how to protect the safety and security of office equipment away from the office.
Business travellers should
- Not be penalised financially for travel disruption.
- Be helped with accommodation and alternative means of travel, despite the cost.
- Not be pressurised into taking undue risks in order to get back to work.
- Factor the costs of emergency temporary staff into your planning.
- Make sure that temporary contracts are drafted flexibly to cover changing business needs.
Keeping up to date
- You may need to update contracts, policies or handbooks to cover contingency planning.
- Check whether your contracts and policies allow for this.
- Consult with employees, employee representatives or unions as appropriate.
- Deal fairly with any objections.
- Consider how to communicate any changes.
Keeping trouble at bay
- Check whether changes have a potentially discriminatory effect and whether you could defend them.
- Put training or briefings in place to make sure that managers make fair, consistent, non-discriminatory decisions in applying changed policies and procedures.
- Consider whether you need to monitor remote working.
- Check whether abuse of absence policies is covered in your disciplinary procedure.