As we try to settle into our new normal, one thing is sadly inevitable; Covid-19 is here to stay. There will be many challenges as we settle into our updated work lives, as well as associated costs for most businesses.
PPE, Cleaning & Rules
While masks are now ‘advised’ and not a legal requirement, some workplaces are relaxing their rules. Remember you do have the option to make PPE mandatory in your workplace if you wish to. Complete a risk assessment and agree a strategy going forward with your employees.
Many workplaces have had to make modifications over the last 16 months to allow people to work safely, these should be maintained, or even improved upon.
If PPE and additional cleaning is a business necessity then it is tax-deductible. And putting these measures in-place can save money in the long run, as well as help preserve the health of your staff.
Measures to consider are:
- Hand washing and/or hand sanitiser stations
- Set a maximum number of people per room / space – to include distancing
- Perspex screens
- Require masks to be worn
- Encourage 2x weekly lateral flow tests
- Bubble staff together into shifts to avoid all staff being pinged at once
For some businesses the current guidance will pose a challenge. If your staff are pinged by the NHS app they should isolate. This can cause staffing issues, or even forcibly close your business if most of your staff are isolating.
If staff can work from home this is a good option, if they can’t this is a real problem. The big question is; can you still pay them or yourself? The government have not announced any financial support to help businesses whose staff are self-isolating, nor have they announced support for businesses forcibly closed due to staff shortages.
It may be difficult to pay staff during isolation time, but if you are able to do so it will help in numerous ways:
- Staff feel supported – they may have to go for 2 weeks with only SSP otherwise through no fault of their own
- Staff ignoring the advice / deleting the app because they want to be paid could lead to an outbreak at your workplace
If your business can’t afford to keep staff paid while in isolation, then they may be eligible for other types of support. For example, the £500 Test & Trace Support payment. And if you are the parent, guardian or carer of someone who has been told to isolate – and as a result will miss work – you can also apply for this support payment.
We understand that within the next few months it is likely that fully vaccinated people will be able to return to work if they are pinged so long as they follow up with a negative test result.
Last week a list of fully vaccinated workers who may skip self isolation was released, though there are still a lot of grey areas and this list is being regularly reviewed. We understand that frontline businesses who qualify for this arrangement will be contacted directly, and other businesses may apply if they think they are critical. Only certain named, fully vaccinated workers in specific business sectors will be allowed to skip isolation. The absence individuals is considered to have a “major detrimental impact on the availability, integrity or delivery of essential services” or a “significant impact on national security, national defence, or the functioning of the state”.
If your business is closed as a result of the ‘pingdemic’ you may still be eligible for local or national support schemes, but nothing specific has been announced to support closed businesses due to staff being pinged at this time.