Coronavirus: Free Practical Guide to Keep Business Going
Posted on 16th March 2020 at 14:42
This short guide is provided, free of charge as a practical guide* for small businesses on how to keep business afloat during the Coronavirus outbreak. This guide has been produced in response to questions from small business owners in March 2020. Contributors include Kellie Calvert, MCIPD Director of HR, Humber HR People and Kate van der Sluis, FRIP, Managing Partner. It is intended as a practical guide only - for specific advice for your business please contact a suitably qualified professional.
This guide is intended for small business employers, who should consider some simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff, in case coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads more widely in the UK. This guidance come from www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus.
It's good practice for employers to:
keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
make sure everyone's contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace shows symptoms of the virus
make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
Employers must not single anyone out. For example, they must not treat an employee differently because of their race or ethnicity. We would add to this guidance by suggesting that:
Wherever practical, make plans for employees to work from home and encourage home working – check your employee handbook for flexible working policy.
Empower employees to replace face to face meetings with remote meetings/teleconferences. Make sure employees have the equipment and software they need, and offer training if required on the appropriate software, for example the free to use Zoom (https://youtu.be/vFhAEoCF7jg), or Skype.
Consider staff rota/cover for essential and business critical employees if the infection spreads. You may want to outline a plan in case you need to close the workplace temporarily. For example, making sure staff have a way to communicate with the employer and other people they work with.
Self-Isolation & Sick Pay. Employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they need to self-isolate because:
they have coronavirus
they have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
they've been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
If someone has symptoms, everyone in their household must self-isolate for 14 days. Those who live alone must self-isolate for 7 days.
Employers might offer more than SSP – 'contractual' sick pay. This information is taken from the ACAS website on 17.03.2020. ACAS offer further detailed guidance on Sick Pay and is updated daily: www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
Mental Health & Wellbeing. Coronavirus has plunged the world into uncertainty and the constant news about the pandemic can feel relentless. All of this is taking its toll on people's mental health, particularly those already living with conditions like anxiety and OCD. Being concerned about the news is understandable, but for some employees it can make existing mental health problems worse. The WHO has recently published guidelines for protecting mental health during the outbreak. Its recommendations include:
That everyone takes a break from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
Employees need to take care of their physical health. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling- this might include equipping managers with the tools to reassure employees or having an open conversation with your employees on a one to one basis when needed.
Remember - Helping others cope with their stress can also make your team stronger.
Layoffs and Short time Working. In some situations, you might need to close business for a short time. Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, you still need to pay their employees for this time. If you think you will need to do this, it's important to talk with employees as early as possible and throughout the closure.
Using Holiday. Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week, and everyone must use their holiday entitlement. If the employer does decide to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take. For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before. This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned. So, employers should:
• explain clearly why they need to close
• try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans
Consider Applying for Business Support
To help give lenders greater confidence to continue providing SMEs with finance throughout this period of uncertainty, the Government is launching a new, temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme initially worth up to £1bn through the British Business Bank. The new scheme will launch in a matter of weeks. The BBB will publish the list of lenders that provide Coronavirus Interruption Business Loan Scheme loans.
SME Statutory Sick Pay Compensation - The Government will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying COVID-19 related Statutory Sick Pay. Through the emergency legislation, employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim SSP paid for sickness absences relating to coronavirus during the period of the outbreak.
Time to Pay (HMRC)
HMRC has set up a dedicated COVID-19 helpline to help those in need, and they may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. HMRC will also waive late payment penalties and interest where a business experiences administrative difficulty contacting HMRC or paying taxes due to COVID-19.
For more information on Business Support available in the Humber Region, see
Finally - 8 Recommended Action Points
By following the guidelines above on good practice, small businesses will already be demonstrating responsibility for employee health & wellbeing and take practical steps to stay afloat during the outbreak. It is also important to recognise that the business leaders’ response will be under the microscope and that others will be looking for reassurance and guidance through clear communication around Coronavirus.
Here are 8 Suggested Action Points:
1. Have a clear communication plan for employees around Coronavirus.
2. Ensure you are clear on your sick pay and flexible working policies.
3. Follow the ACAS best practice guidelines at work.
4. Encourage homeworking and the use of technology to enable business as usual.
5. Be aware of the potential impact of the outbreak on your own and Employee’s Mental Health.
6. Consider how your business will be affected if your workplace temporarily closes and communicate as early as possible.
7. Explore what Business Support is available.
8. Remember that a well thought through and proportionate response to Coronavirus is an opportunity to build trust and demonstrate strength in leadership in tough times.
This article was updated on 17.03.2020. For a FREE PDF copy of this guide, please email email@example.com. Humber HR has a team of experienced freelance and interim HR Consultants, adept at business and continuity people plans. Please get in touch if you would like our support email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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