Growing concern over the spread of the coronavirus means that employers should have an effective disaster recovery and business continuity plan in place. This means that you should do the following:
• evaluate what will be required to continue, in terms of services, procedures and products;
• consider how this can be done with a limited number of employees;
• consider how the business will continue to function, without the use of a physical office.
The plan should include:
• a list of alternative plans, outcomes and instructions for all aspects of the business;
• methods of preferred communication between staff;
• how you will communicate the expectations that are anticipated during the crisis.
In addition to considering immediate policy issues such as adapting your sickness procedures and publicising your remote working policy, businesses may need to think about longer-term issues such as:
• how to deal with ongoing levels of absence or protracted travel restrictions?
• whether external resourcing agencies will be required to help augment your workforce if significant parts are affected by coronavirus?
• whether you could train existing employees and workers to cover business critical positions?
• who will be responsible for making coronavirus-related decisions that will impact the business and employees and which communication channels will be used to keep employees up to date?
• whether you have up to date contact details for all of your staff and reliable emergency contact procedures.
Develop flexible resourcing plans
As part of your organisation’s contingency plan, explore more flexible resourcing strategies in case your business experiences staffing shortages.
• If roles can’t be performed at home, consider more innovative resourcing solutions that may need to be deployed, such as split shifts to cover essential operations or services.
• Develop strategies to maximise the amount of home working to prevent the spread of infection if necessary. There are many roles that could be performed remotely with little disruption to service delivery.
• Investigate ways of using technology to limit the amount of face-to-face contact:
o video conferencing to facilitate remote meetings.
o introducing or maximising the use of self-service options and online services.
o consider issuing staff with laptops so they can work remotely if necessary.
• Increased sickness absence may create a need for other employees, if willing, to work longer hours to keep your business going. If this happens, you will need to comply with the Working Time Regulations 1988 to ensure appropriate length of daytime working hours, night shifts and rest breaks.
• Have plans ready to enable your organisation to operate on a skeleton staff if necessary:
o identify key services and roles that are essential and can’t be put on hold, as well as projects or roles that could be temporarily stood down.
o identify those individuals and managers who have transferrable skills, who can fulfil more than one function and could be allocated to more essential roles.
• Carry out a resourcing risk assessment of the organisation:
o identifying essential areas of the business where few employees have the required skills.
o training additional employees in these skills should be considered.
o ensure that procedures are developed to ensure smooth handovers for employees who are filling in for colleagues in unfamiliar roles.
o provide additional training and a risk assessment if individuals are moving to roles where there may be a health and safety risk.
Some advance planning now for various scenarios – ranging from how to deal with different types of absences to what circumstances might necessitate a temporary facility closure – could help your business deliver a speedier and more effective response if coronavirus becomes a more widespread problem in the UK.
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