Fewer than ten per cent of employers had HR or workplace policies in place covering a disease pandemic prior to the coronavirus outbreak, according to new research from law firm Lewis Silkin.
Yet, as the outbreak has quickly spread – and the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently confirmed the status of the virus as a ‘pandemic’ – almost 80% of businesses now have a policy in place, or at least have plans to implement policies, that respond to the outbreak.
James Davies, Employment Partner at Lewis Silkin, explained that employers are continually having to adapt and evolve as coronavirus continues to spread and new facts emerge.
“This is a fast-moving situation and businesses will need to collaborate and learn from each other in order to know how best to move forward, with the wellbeing of staff and business continuity very much front of mind,” Davies added.
According to the data, almost 60% (58.8%) have implemented a workplace policy which addresses pandemic diseases in response to coronavirus. Despite this, 11% still had no plans to implement a policy at the time of response, while ten per cent plan to implement a policy, but haven’t done so yet.
Firms have adopted other precautionary measures including halting all non-essential travel too. Nearly a quarter (24.2%) have limited both international and domestic UK travel to help contain the spread.
Other policies have included remote working arrangements. A whopping 87.9% of businesses are requesting employees to work from home as a precaution.
Additionally, employers have adopted a combination of responses including sick leave and sick pay (45.5%) and full pay without work or sick leave (16.7%).
As part of the law firm’s first survey of the series, 65 senior HR leaders and in-house counsels in organisations (employing more than 200,000 between them) were surveyed.
Recently, more and more companies have gone public about their plans to contain coronavirus and to help businesses to continue as usual.
Last week, retailer Walmart announced plans to develop an employee leave policy after an employee tested positive with the virus.
Details of the new policy were outlined in a memo which was circulated to employees which pointed towards three main scenarios for the leave policy to apply.
This included allowing employees who feel unable or ‘uncomfortable’ to stay at home, guidance surrounding pay if a member of staff has been told to quarantine and what will happen if an employee tests positive with the virus.
A few days ago, LloydsPharmacy publicly shared advice on LinkedIn about how to safeguard employees and businesses alike.
This included providing posters around the office to remind employees of how they can prevent the spread of the virus and information around how they have prepared updates to their policies. This included guidance on absence and sickness and travel protocols.