With 8 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 (coronavirus), many New Zealand businesses are currently reviewing or preparing their infectious disease outbreak response plans, as part of their health and safety. Key objectives businesses should cover include:
- Reducing potential transmission among your employees
- Identifying people who are at higher risk due to health complications
- Maintaining business operations – including checking stocks and suppliers
- Minimising potential adverse effects through disruptions to your supply chains
Key considerations to protect and educate your workforce whilst ensuring business continuity are:
- Encourage sick employees to stay home
- If an employee shows up to work sick, send them home
- Practice social distancing (no handshakes/hugs/hongis/hi-fives!)
- Increase routine cleaning of the workplace environment especially surfaces, keyboards, desks, kitchen/eating areas
- Ensure your air conditioning maintenance is up to date
- Don’t forget your mobile workers – provide alcohol wet wipes in vehicles
- Check-in with staff who are currently travelling overseas, and have a log of anyone returning or going overseas, including destinations
- Advise employees of company protocols for employees returning from overseas travel –especially now the NZ Government has enforced a 2 week isolation for people coming into NZ from other countries (other than the Pacific Islands)
- Think about work from home arrangements, what resourcing could be required.
- Prepare/monitor for a possible increase in absences due to illness in employees and their family members
- Explain what human resources policies, workplace and leave flexibilities you currently have or may put in place, (5 days sick leave is the minimum employment standard, you need to weigh up whether the business can sustain any more than this or will staff use annual leave?)
- Implement plans to continue your essential business functions in case you experience higher than usual absenteeism.
- Cross-train personnel to perform essential functions so that the workplace is able to operate even if key staff members are absent
- Communicate regularly with all employees
Regarding sick leave
The statutory entitlement is 5 days sick leave per annum. If a worker is required to isolate you will need to decide as a business, what is a sustainable position for your business – given you may have several staff in self-isolation.
This pandemic is an exceptional situation, and you may have a staff member who has used all their sick leave, as an Employer you must have a conversation with them regarding whether they would have unpaid sick leave or use some annual leave – ultimately it is the employees decision
Keep communicating to your staff
Ensure you communicate regularly with your employees, letting them know there will be a series of communications as the status (spread or containment) of the virus changes.
Your safety and business plan should be adaptable to the changing circumstances and involve input from your employees as you develop and review your workplace safety and operational plans. It is important that employees have a clear understanding of the facts about the COVID-19 virus. They need to also understand what your workplace expectations are to prevent the spread of the virus and minimize the impact on the business and your protocols regarding people who are unwell. Click here to receive your free HRtoolkit letter to staff which provides a great working template for your communications about COVID-19. Click here to receive a fact sheet on COVID-19, for your staff, its important they have the correct information about the virus, our fact sheet is taken from World Health Organisation sources and the NZ Ministry of Health, current as of 8am 16 March 2020