The issues surrounding what HR should do if staff are found to be breaching the national lockdown rules was discussed yesterday (28 January) at law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner’s (BCLP) COVID-19 webinar.
Speaking at the event Mark Kaye, senior associate at BCLP, said that a breach of the lockdown rules would amount to a contravention of the government’s guidance and, in some cases, would be unlawful, prompting employers to take action.
“Such a breach may, if it is in the public domain, have a detrimental impact on the reputation of the employer,” said Kaye. “That in itself may warrant disciplinary action being taken.”
Should a breach of the lockdown rules lead to a spread of COVID-19 around the office, Kaye said it would be a far more significant issue, given that employers have a duty of care to their wider workforce.
He said: “Such behaviour may amount to gross misconduct leading to summary dismissal. Many employers have put in place COVID policies and procedures which highlight some of these issues and warn of the risk of disciplinary action being taken.
“This is a prudent step for all employers to take.”
Brian Kropp, chief of HR research at Gartner told HR magazine that HR executives are struggling to put plans in place to manage employees during the lockdown.
He said: “If employees are engaging in risky behaviour outside of the office, there is very little that a company can do to get them to change.
“Unfortunately, this introduces risk to a business, as those employees might get infected outside of work, and then come to the workplace and transmit the virus to other employees.”
While employers can monitor the wearing of face masks and social distancing in the office, Kropp said managing what employees are doing outside of work is a much bigger challenge.
“Most organisations are relying on communication to employees about what appropriate behaviour is and the importance of protecting their coworkers.
“However, outside of communication and encouragement, there are not any performance management levers that employers can use,” said Kropp
The webinar hosts highlighted that the rollout of the coronavirus vaccination has now become a priority issue for employers, though Kaye added he does not think employers will be able to enforce employees to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has however endorsed that employers recommend their workforce consider taking it.