With the Director of Public Health advising all Guernsey residents that all non-essential travel must cease with immediate effect as of Monday 16 March 2020, the question as to how employers should deal with employees who are due to travel is raised.
Employers Approach to Travel Arrangements
Where an employee is due to travel overseas for a client meeting, you may wish to advise the client of the present risks should they wish the meeting to proceed, the States of Guernsey’s advice on travelling and your duty of care to the employee. Proposing alternative arrangements such as telephone or video conferencing may be put forward to the client as an interim measure.
Alternative arrangements are important for Board members who are not based in Guernsey but are required for a Board meeting, to be able to meet legal and regulatory requirements.
Employees who are due to attend overseas training or conferencing may wish to consider moving the employee to a course at a later date or cancelling their attendance at the event.
A discussion should be held with employees due to embark on travel for the purposes of annual leave, to ascertain whether they are going to continue with their plans and whether they have explored alternative options such as moving their booking or cancelling and obtaining a refund.
Employees wishing to continue with their plans should be advised of the risks to themselves, the advice from Public Health, and their duty of care to other staff and the public. They should be notified of the impact and risk to the business and its ongoing operations and informed that they will not be permitted to return to the office within 14 days of their return to Guernsey. Employers may wish to consider disciplinary measures for employees who do not follow todays advice.
Employers should consider amending present sickness policies during this period to note that illness resulting from non-essential overseas travel, which is against the advice of the Public Health department, will not be paid. Employees should be advised, prior to travelling, that they will either need to take this additional time from their annual leave allowance or as unpaid leave.
Social Distancing and the Workplace
On 13 March 2020, the Director of Public Health also asked the community to consider additional measures to limit the spread of the virus by asking people to limit contact with others – also known as social distancing. While these measures have been initially suggested for travel and public events, employers may wish to begin considering such measures in the workplace . Such measure could include:
Limiting face to face client contact, replacing this with telephone and web based conferencing.
Separating teams with some being office based and others working from home and rotating this on a weekly basis. This is dependent on remote working being available.
Where remote working is not available consider changing where people sit in the office, on an interim basis, to create greater distance between staff. Such measures could include basing staff workstations in meeting rooms, should client contact have already been limited.
Where employers business models are not office based, such as the retail, hospitality and the service industries, revisit present service demand levels and consider adjusting workforce shift numbers or duties accordingly.
The Public Health Service provides information and advice as the situation regarding the coronavirus develops on a daily basis. Information can be found at https://gov.gg/coronavirus which includes updates on affected regions, information on transition, travel and self-isolation. Two dedicated helpline numbers have also been released for persons with any clinical questions regarding the coronavirus – 01481 756938 and 01481 756969.
Focus will continue to monitor the situation and provide practical advice on an ongoing basis.