The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed workplace practices. Employers should review and amend existing policies and procedures in their staff handbook where appropriate to reflect the introduction of new ways of working. Some updates may be temporary to manage immediate issues caused by the pandemic whereas others may be become permanent as businesses adapt to a new normal.

Some of the key policies and procedures in your staff handbook that should be reviewed, updated where necessary, and communicated to staff include:

  • Sick leave and sick pay

    • Update employees on any changes to reporting absence

    • Employees will need to be clear on pay and reporting arrangements where they are required to self-isolate

    • Isolation notes can now be obtained through an online service

  • Health and safety

    • This policy might need to be updated to cover track and trace, if applicable, what to do if you experience COVID-19 symptoms, hygiene practices including hand washing, social distancing measures, PPE etc.

    • Encourage remote working where possible

  • Working from home policy – You might wish to introduce one if you do not already have one and staff are now working from home. You might also wish to review your existing flexible working request policy.

  • Data protection – This might need to be updated to cover protection of data and confidential information whilst working from home and safety measures when transporting data between home and the workplace.

  • Risk Assessments – All employers are now expected to have up to date risk assessments to consider the impact of COVID-19 on their individual businesses and employees. This should be regularly reviewed, updated and any changes communicated effectively to staff.

  • Mental health, wellbeing and stress – You might want to update this or introduce a new policy to set out what staff should do if they are struggling and what help is available.

  • Annual leave

    • Employees will need to be clear on what will happen if they need to cancel a holiday due to sickness and what will happen if they book a holiday abroad and then have to isolate on their return.

    • To prevent workers losing their holiday and to enable key workers to keep working, the normal rules on carrying over annual leave have been modified. Amendments to the Working Time Regulations 1998 mean that all employees who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement by the end of 2020 due to COVID-19 have a right to carry it over into the next two leave years.

  • Bereavement leave and bereavement pay – You may wish to review this policy in view of the pandemic and potential loss of life.

If you require any advice on the drafting or updating of your staff handbook, please contact Farleys’ employment law team on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email through our online contact form.