As we continue to emerge from the restrictions of lockdown across the Channel Islands, there has never been a better time to refocus and reconnect to ensure your business is prepared and ready for the new ‘normal’ in today’s world.
Helen Myers, Head of Focus Jersey provides some useful insight for employers in Jersey and Guernsey to consider to remain relevant and reconnect.
The last 12 months have proved to be extremely testing for every business, whatever its sector or size. We have all been faced with challenges to overcome that we have never faced before. Adapting to new ways of working which have taken us away from our normal routines and locations of work with a need to be more flexible and adaptable; having to review and find new ways of communicating with each other so that we remain connected to colleagues, friends & family, and all with a far greater reliance on technology and social media sites than ever before.
Working parents have developed a whole new respect for the education system. Our patience and resolve has been tested and for many, it’s meant that a greater sense of empathy and appreciation of others has developed. Awareness of mental health has increased, becoming a key priority on the agenda for many organisations. Employers have had to implement more policies and procedures in a short timeframe that 12 months ago would likely never have featured in the working environment. We didn’t know what PPE stood for, personal hygiene was very much taken for granted and observing someone’s personal space took on a whole new meaning.
The situation continues to evolve and all businesses and their workforces within, will need to continue to adapt to their working environments.
As the planned reconnection strategy continues across the Channel Islands, we have provided a summary of the current position, alongside insights to some of the key HR considerations for employers as they prepare to re-connect their own workforce and refocus their own working practices and procedures.
The Position for Jersey
- The vaccination programme is in full swing and as we write, is available to book for all islanders aged over 50, and anyone clinically at risk aged over 16.
- Jersey is presently in Stage 4 of its reconnection strategy which has seen the easing of some restrictions including: a gradual re-opening of the hospitality, health & beauty sectors and some sport & recreational activities – including gyms and swimming pools; household gatherings now permitted for up to 10 people; alongside re-introduction of soft play and easing of some music restrictions.
- The default position for businesses, wherever possible, is to continue to work from home (with exceptions for certain sectors providing guidelines adhered to)
By Monday 12 April, Stage 5 will see an increase in numbers for outdoor gatherings; a further easing of restrictions in hospitality and all businesses will be permitted to commence a partial safe return to the workplace.
By Monday 10 May, Stage 6 will see number restrictions eased further for both outdoor and indoor activities; the physical distance order discontinued (with guidance) and all working from home restrictions lifted.
Providing this all goes to current plan, we will see any remaining restrictions lifted by 14 June (Stage 7).
The Position in Guernsey
Guernsey is presently in stage 2 of its exit from lockdown framework which has provided islanders and businesses alike with increased freedoms to live and operate. This being said certain restrictions remain such as face coverings and the introduction of different levels of social distancing for controlled and uncontrolled environments. During this period businesses have had to reconsider how to operate in light of the requirements of:
- Notifying the States of Guernsey of the intention to operate.
- Developing a method statement detailing how the business will be able to meet these measures and guide how they will operate.
- A maximum of 20 people indoors.
- Maintaining records of who has been on the premises and have enhanced hygiene and cleaning measure.
- Limitations of staff numbers particularly in shared facility areas such as kitchens and certain food preparation requirements.
With the resumption of all on island activities in Stage 3 due to come into force on 22 March – dependent on the position remaining the same in Guernsey, questions are raised as to whether all the measure in place, and the lessons learned, fall away or whether businesses should maintain some of them?
Considerations for Employers
Whilst the pandemic has been managed quite differently, both Islands are now in the fortunate position due to all the hard work undertaken and sacrifices businesses have had to make. As such employers may consider updating current policies and procedures to maintain certain protocols or as a means to being able to resume operations quickly should any of the reconnection strategies be required to go back a step.
With one eye on the past, businesses will need to consider whether any procedures will need to be reviewed given the release of the reconnection strategies planned, including the potential for increased travel by employees as non-essential travel restrictions are gradually lifted.
Below is a list of measures businesses may wish to consider at this time or for inclusion in the review of their business continuity plans and internal procedures.
Risk Assessment Safety Plan
Every business is required to undertake a risk assessment that considers the following:
- Protection of employees and their families
- Protection of customers and their families
It is a requirement to have a written plan and risk assessments undertaken, and be able to share/communicate this with all employees.
These should be regularly reviewed & updated to ensure continual alignment to changes in restrictions or government guidance.
Protection and Hygiene
Employees need to demonstrate, encourage and support towards all employees following guidelines and ensure continued protection of self and others in the workplace. Communications should be clear, displayed and regularly updated to include:
- Washing hands/use of sanitizing gel (including on arrival, during the day after touching surfaces, handling packages/money etc.)
- Avoid touching face
- Catch cough/sneeze in a tissue, bin it and wash hands
- Clean surfaces and shared toilets regularly
- Wearing of face mask in line with guidance
What to do if Covid symptoms displayed, employees to stay home, contact helpline: J 0800 735 5566 / G 01481 756938 or 01481 756969.
Health & Safety at Work, Planning & Building Control, Environmental Health, Licensing Requirements
All existing legislation and regulations that previously applied to all business operations have and will remain in place but should be reviewed and adapted to ensure wider considerations are incorporated where appropriate.
Policies & Procedures
Review and update as necessary, on-going consideration may include:
- Absence & Sickness: develop processes for sickness reporting and where employees may be displaying symptoms of covid-19, review policy in relation to entitlement to sickness benefit as relevant.
- Isolation guidelines: Establish procedures on what to do if an employee or a customer becomes unwell on the premises, including tracking procedures to log information and wider impacts to colleagues/customers. Establish procedures for contract tracing & invoking working from home arrangements where employees need to isolate/shield. How will employers support/manage vulnerable staff – consider policy and support available to adopt protective shielding measures for those in need.
- First Aid: Review plans to cover customer/employee development of symptoms and update policies to include considerations should anyone require first aid during the pandemic. Are your first aiders equipped and know what to do?
- Review Flexible Working practices: Employers are encouraged to remain flexible in recognition of risks and constraints the pandemic poses on workers and their families. In particular consider high risk employees and associated impacts to their home/work life balance and challenges posed/faced.
- Communications: How will employers ensure all employees remain connected? Undertake a survey and develop a communication strategy that covers both working from home (WFH) and return to office (RTO) employees. How will communication will be undertaken to ensure continued collaboration for both WFH and RTO employees? Communication plans should be continually reviewed for effectiveness and ensure employee preferences are considered.
- Mental Health & Well Being: Consider different circumstances. Build a Q&A that illustrates the approach and support that will be provided to employees, have you implemented an employee assistance programme (EAP) and is it providing the right support?
- Development of a Covid-19 policy. Consider the end to end impacts of the employee life cycle and how the employer will manage/support employees through the pandemic and beyond.
- Vaccination Guidance: No jab no job considerations? Have you considered your approach, how will employee’s react to each other? How will employer manage and support queries? What are the legal ramifications of putting such a policy in place?
The above is not intended to be an exhaustive list. There have been many unknowns around every corner for the last 12 months and these are likely to continue for the foreseeable future. However, one thing that is clear for many is that our resilience and ability to adapt and move forward has been tested, but we have demonstrated a determination to resurface, rebuild and succeed in overcoming the many obstacles we have faced.
We at Focus HR are ready to refocus and reconnect – are you?