July 28, 2020
COVID-19 has caused a lot of uncertainty in workplaces across the region and at Acas, we have seen a record increase in helpline calls from employers and employees wanting advice on how to handle changes to their work situation.
They have called us asking for help about redundancies, sick pay, holidays, working at home, how to save their business and looking after children or those who need care.
We have been regularly updating our advice as the Government has announced changes and we’ve developed furlough template letters for employers and guidance to support employees to transition to working from home.
We also developed new COVID-19 mental health advice that helps managers to support their staff during these uncertain times.
We advised employers on what the law says about sick pay and advice on managing employees who were self-isolating.
Acas also developed free-to-attend webinars for employers, which provided practical advice for employers to help manage the impact of coronavirus in the workplace.
They included advice on effective ways of communicating and managing employees remotely; time off and pay; how to alter working hours or close businesses temporarily. We also introduced a live Twitter Q&A session every Friday.
It has been a very busy time for us during lockdown and I’m proud of how our staff have met these new demands.
The new flexible furlough scheme has started and businesses have either started to return to work or still need to and we have best practice guidance on how it should be done.
Acas’ advice is for employers and their staff to have early discussions about any plans to return to work and try to come to an agreement.
These talks can take place with trade union or employee representatives and health and safety representatives but all staff should be kept informed of plans and be able to feed into discussions.
It is a good idea to talk about:
• When staff might return to the workplace
• How staff will travel to and from work
• How health and safety is being reviewed and managed, including sharing the latest risk assessment
• Any planned adjustments to the workplace, for example additional hand washing facilities, staggering start and finish times to avoid overcrowding or floor markings to help people keep one or two metres apart
• If there might be a phased return of the workforce, for example, some staff returning before others
Wherever possible, employers should speak to staff before making a decision or putting plans in writing.
This can help staff understand and feel included in decisions. Acas senior advisers are still on hand to provide advice and training albeit very differently at the moment.
All our advice and training is being conducted remotely via Skype, Microsoft Teams and Zoom.