Post Layoff And What You Need To Consider
As we move through the month of November, a lot of companies are planning the return to business, in the hope that Level 5 restrictions will be lifted on December 1st.
After the first lockdown earlier this year, some companies experienced difficulties and challenges in getting employees to return to the workplace, for a variety of different reasons.
Some are nervous about using public transport, some are living with ‘at risk’ or ‘vulnerable’ people, some have childcare or elder care challenges. These are real challenges for some people and its important to bear this in mind and engage with employees in a caring and supportive way.
Companies need to reassure employees that the workplace is safe and share all the measures that have been put in place.
Here are some ideas you can take to support the transition back to work, post temporary layoff due to covid-19. If you don’t have these things in place, check out our FREE COVID-19 Toolkit on www.hrwithharte.ie
Ensure you are in compliance with the Government Return to Work Protocol and that you:
- Have a Covid-19 Response Plan
- Conducted Risk Assessments for each role and identified the control measures you will put in place to mitigate each risk to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP). Have you updated your Safety Statement accordingly?
- Assigned a Covid-19 Compliance Officer
- Updated any relevant policies and procedures to reflect any changes to:
- Dealing with a suspected case of Covid-19 in the workplace
- Cleaning and Disinfection in the workplace
- Employee Responsibilities
- PPE supplies and inventory
Give employees notice of their planned or anticipated return to work date.
Schedule and conduct Return to Work Induction for all employees and regular visitors, suppliers, contractors etc. and keep a record of attendance. Share your Covid-19 Response Plan and communicate the employer and employee responsibilities in managing the risks. Share all the forms and templates you will be using e.g. cleaning protocols, social distancing protocols, etc. Remind employees of the employee sick pay scheme and set out the company’s position on absence and pay due to Covid-19. Remind all employees of their responsibilities in relation to the control of infectious diseases.
Share useful information and links for mental health support and employee wellbeing or you Employee Assistance Programme, if you have one.
Where possible, follow up with employees, and this can be virtually, and answer any questions they may have about returning to work.
Send each employee an Employee Declaration form, 3 days before they are due to return to work and request that they complete and return the form to you at least 24 hours before they are due to return to work. Use a log to record the receipt of signed Employee Declaration forms. This form asks the relevant questions, to make sure that employees are safe to come back to the workplace.
If employees are in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), advise them in writing to notify the Department of Social Protections, to sign off the PUP payment on the first day they return to work, because the requirement for temporary layoff will no longer exist after that date.
People are only entitled to PUP if they are on temporary layoff. If the business reopens, and/or people are invited back to work, then the requirement for layoff has ceased so they are no longer entitled to the PUP.
If employees are slow to engage with you or apprehensive or anxious about returning to the workplace or saying they can’t or don’t want to return, then you need to establish their grounds, by asking them to send you a text or email stating their concerns and/or why they feel they can’t or won’t come back to work.
If people are nervous or scared, do talk to them, explain all the measures you have put in place to keep them and all employees safe at work. However, being nervous or anxious doesn’t give anyone a right to not return to the workplace and you will have to explain that they are not entitled to continue on the PUP because they are afraid to come back to work or because they have other challenges i.e. living with ‘at risk’ or ‘vulnerable’ people, transport, childcare etc.
That is a tough conversation to have with people that are genuinely scared to come back to work particularly if they or a family member have underlying conditions.
You will need to reassure employees, tell them all the measure you have put in place. If you have photographs send them photographs. Invite them to come in so they can see themselves the safety measures that you have taken and what you have done to keep them safe. Ask the employee what it would take for them to feel safe and work with them as best you can.
In cases like this, and where possible, you might consider exploring other temporary options with an employees, such as staggered hours, different shifts, doing different duties that can be done remotely, or working from home some of the time for a temporary period.
Be mindful of reasonable accommodation requirements. Reasonable accommodation comes into play under Equality legislation and applies to the nine grounds. If an employee is saying they can’t come back to work because of one of the nine grounds then ask them to put that in writing to you so you are clear about which of the nine grounds they are referring to and work with them in terms of making a reasonable accommodation.
There may be some employees, that no matter what measures you take, they won’t feel safe. I recommend you speak with them one and one, work with them and support them as best you can and make whatever arrangements you can to demonstrate you are listening to the employees concerns, taking them on board and being as reasonable as you can.
Make sure you have a paper trail for all activities and all PPE issued.
Consider all the various statutory and non-statutory leaves that are available. For example, if someone told you that they are taking care of somebody that is ill or vulnerable, then they may be eligible for Carers Leave, or if they are home schooling parental leave could be an option. There is no one prescribed way of doing this.
Once you have reopened, maintain an Employee Contract Tracing log and a Visitor Contact Tracing log each day.
Thank you for reading and engaging with me here. If this is a current issue for you or you would like some more information or support, check out our FREE COVID-19 Toolkit on www.hrwithharte.ie or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.