Live: Is that legal? Employment lawyers answer COVID-19 questions

Where is employment law now? It’s a topsy-turvy topic, but it’s what North East law firm Muckle LLP tackled in the first of their engaging virtual roadshows, on Wednesday 23 September.

The webinar was filled with HR professionals, employers and inhouse lawyers who asked the questions we’ve all been thinking.

Where do businesses stand if employees can work from home, but their work is done better in the office? What if employees don’t isolate and bring COVID-19 into the workplace? Will there be a rise in redundancies and employment tribunals and how can that be managed?

Chris Maddock, partner and head of employment law at Muckle, answered these and a host of other key questions throughout the virtual session.

Here’s a flavour of some of the practical advice Chris offered:

Communication is everything

CM: Communication has been and will continue to be key throughout COVID-19. It is vitally important to give clear guidance to employees. For example, review and update risk assessment policies and ensure employees read and understand these before entering the workplace.

Be prepared to be flexible

CM: It’s a turbulent time with guidance and regulations changing at an unprecedented rate. A rigid or blanket – one size fits all approach – is unlikely to work. For example, a remote worker doesn’t have a colleague they trust to dial into a consultation meeting and would rather their spouse attends. It’s certainly not normal practice, but isn’t it better to allow it and get the meeting done, than cause delay and irritation?

Focus on what you can control

CM: You might have vulnerable people in your workforce, or employees who live with someone who is. You might have a remote worker who’s not comfortable with their workstation at home. Think about what you can do to improve the situation. Demonstrating that you have done what you can to help will go a long way towards resolving employee issues.

Are we heading for a second national lockdown?

A straw poll during the webinar showed that almost 60% of people felt we were, and Chris recommended that employers should prepare for that eventuality.

“As one person said to me recently, we are all in same sea, facing the same storm, just in different sized boats,” says Chris.

“Winter is coming. But there are many practical steps that can help us navigate the stormy conditions ahead and maybe even make our boats a little more seaworthy along the way.”

You can watch the full webinar here.

And sign-up to the upcoming virtual roadshows here.

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