Caution still needed to protect those at risk against Covid-19
Michelle McDonagh, Consulting and Client Relationship Manager, Adare Human Resource Management
The HSE recently launched its new “You Never Know”
advertising campaign urging people to keep up the public health behaviours to help protect those at risk from Covid-19; a stark reminder that the virus has not gone away. There are also rumblings that we could see the reintroduction of mask-wearing in public spaces, something that has the support of the vast majority of the public according to a survey published last week
The theme of the HSE’s advertising campaign is that we should take steps to protect those around us as they may be more at risk. Our advice to clients is not to fall into the trap of thinking the pandemic is over and the risk from Covid has gone. Covid-19 should be considered as another workplace hazard that could cause illness. Therefore, the same consideration should be taken when engaging with employees who have concerns about continuing to be in the workplace. Some employees are still feeling anxious about being in the workplace, particularly when others are showing symptoms of having any kind of mild illness or one of the team / a person from their own household have recently been confirmed as covid positive.
There are a wide range of reasons why employees are concerned, including having underlying health conditions or family members who are at risk or if an employee is pregnant (the HSE website has up-to-date information on Covid-19 & Pregnancy).
It is useful to reshare the guidelines that are in place in your organisation from how to respond to these different scenarios and encourage the team to engage with their Managers if they have any concerns.
According to our most recent HR Barometer Report, four in ten (41%) Organisations have experienced an increase in short term absence due to ‘anxiety returning to the workplace’. This clearly indicates that there is still a hesitancy among a substantial cohort of people about returning to their work.
Engaging with employees gives the opportunity to have an open and honest conversation to understand what their concerns are and explore any reluctance to work at the physical work premises. This ensures any issue is handled sensitively and appropriately for them and the business.
We have worked with Organisations to implement measures that ensure employees are confident they are working in a safe environment, while also meeting the requirements of the business. These measures can be as straightforward as staggering breaks to implementing new working practices, such as hybrid or remote working on a temporary or ongoing basis.
It’s worth mentioning that if an employee refuses to return to the workplace in contrast to their contracted terms of employment without any valid reason, disciplinary action can be taken. However, guidance should be taken on how to navigate these scenarios.
To help Chamber members, we have created a Risk Assessment Checklist which can be completed with Pregnant Employees. These assessments should be completed once an employer is informed of the pregnancy and at regular intervals of perhaps 2/3 months thereafter until the commencement of maternity leave. And, for employees returning back to the workplace for the first time, we have a Return to the Workplace Checklist.
If you would like support with a Health and Safety concern or would like to have a comprehensive review of your Health and Safety documents, please click here to book a call with one of our team who would be happy to assist.
Adare Human Resource Management is a team of expert-led Employment Law, Industrial Relations and best practice Human Resource Management consultants. For more information go to www.adarehrm.ie or call (01) 561 3594 or email email@example.com.