While it has been around a year and a half since Covid-19 first began to disrupt daily life, many of us still remain confused over how we are supposed to live life, conduct business, and embrace the ‘new normal’.
For employers, doing right by an entire workforce remains something of an enigma. Here are five questions answered for anyone attempting to navigate this next phase.
1. Can I Force Employees to Have the Jab?
While agreeing to receive a vaccine against Covid-19 is not a legal requirement, and some people have indeed made the decision to forgo this option, it remains unclear to many employers whether or not they have any legal right to enforce inoculation within their own business.
This is a brand new line of thought and, as such, remains a grey area in UK law.
It is likely that, in the coming months and years, each case will boil down to its particulars, rather than a single law. According to Willans, a solicitors in Cheltenham, ‘Any action to compel an employee to have the COVID 19 vaccine should be proportionate to achieve a legitimate aim’. As such, it would be ill-advised for you to introduce any rule or hiring policy against unvaccinated workers without good reason – i.e., one that has been reviewed by an experienced legal team.
2. Do I Need the Same Amount of Office Space as Before?
There is no legal requirement for any business owner to ‘upgrade’ their office space but, as life goes through another change, the mark of a good business owner will be an ability to remain agile when it comes to property requirements.
What’s more, maintaining a very open line of dialogue with your employees over where and how they would prefer to work will help to make this transition easier on everybody.
3. Can I Make Employees Attend the Office if they Are Able to Work from Home?
This is, again, another difficult area – especially because of the fact that none of us have ever dealt with a situation like this before.
As an employer, it is your responsibility to address any legitimate concerns for safety your employee may have ahead of returning to work, although it remains within your right to request the employee return to work. If not, you may have grounds to pursue disciplinary action.
However, if it reaches a point where the employee is dismissed, they may have grounds to pursue action for unfair dismissal if you have not reasonably addressed the health and safety issues they raised prior to the termination of their contract.
Working safely during Covid-19 remains a relatively new concept, and open to change, so, again, professional legal guidance is essential here.
4. What Changes Do I Need to Make to My Policies Post-Covid?
There are no specific changes employers must make to their existing policies, but being able to remain flexible around the ongoing changes impacting all our lives is very important. For instance, you will want to ensure that your remote working policy, and any flexible working policies, are prepared to cater to individuals still dealing with the impact of the pandemic, and ensure that your sickness policy takes into account any calls for self-isolation and quarantine.
5. How Can I Support My Employees’ Mental Health Through the Pandemic and Beyond?
Supporting your employees’ wellbeing in a post-Covid world will require some adjustments. Additional training and support, particularly when they wrestle with any fears over returning to the office, will be vital.
Similarly, a strong anti-stress policy will not only help with staff retention, but also avoiding long-term absence and its impact on the business. For this, you need to take a clear stance on mental health as an employer, and ensure every member of staff has resources to turn to should they need them.