The Impact of COVID-19 on Workplace Policies and Procedures
With the anxiety and confusion caused by the global pandemic, the focus for many organisations has been on adapting their operating model. In many instances simply to survive the uncertainty and in some instances to thrive and embrace new opportunities, whilst peripheral administration requirements have been moved to the back burner as leaders try to figure out a way forward. But one HR practice that can’t be ignored is an organisations COVID-19 policies and procedures.
The reality is, regardless of what HR policies and procedures an organisation may have had in place previously, for the most part, these will no longer be appropriate going forward. COVID-19 has changed all workplaces and the way all organisations will operate in the future.
Legislation and technology have ushered in a new era
As governments scramble to amend workplace safety requirements, ICT developers are working double-time to create technology systems that reduce the need for human contact. Working from home went from something that many organisations were still considering, to an essential survival measure.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw certain restrictions imposed on travel, the introduction of social distancing and in some areas the mandatory wearing of face masks. As infection rates fluctuate, regulations in some states have eased while in others, they’ve been reimposed. State and territory governments continue to implement emergency measures as infection rates rise and fall.
Each crisis management measure affects organisations differently with new operating procedures being developed and many existing procedures being redefined. The effects on an organisations operations has left both HR and senior management teams struggling to keep up in these uncertain times.
COVID-19 policies and procedures must keep pace
Despite all the pressure, leadership must continually evaluate how their workforce has been impacted and adapt policies and procedures accordingly. Unfortunately, there’s much more to it than merely writing protocols relating to workplace health and safety compliance.
Some critical issues to consider include:
As some employees work from home and other’s roles have been reduced, staff responsibilities will inevitably change. Line manager must review job descriptions with their employees, and the necessary amendments must be put in writing.
Employees must be equipped to do their job properly so that productivity isn’t impacted. This means the company must ensure technical equipment, internet access and communication tools are available. Agreements around the provision of tools needs to be in place as soon as possible. If a signed agreement isn’t in place, the employer may not be in a position to adequately defend themselves if something goes wrong.
Even though employees are working offsite, employees may need access to company systems, data and potentially sensitive information. Without vigilance, an employee can easily cause loss of critical information or even data breaches that can have serious consequences for an organisation. For example, a family member may use their work computer. Whether intentional or unintentional, rules must be implemented, with expectations, risks and consequences clearly explained.
Health and safety
Addressing COVID-19 policies and procedures around health and safety is entering uncharted territory for employers. Employers must consider legislation and make adequate provisions around employees returning to work, as well as those who will continue to work from home. Employees who travel for work also need to have protective measures in place.
With so much at stake keeping employees and customers safe, whilst also viably maintaining operations, leadership teams cannot afford to risk overlooking the importance of these types of requirements.
Few people have the knowledge and experience to develop and write effective policies and procedures under everchanging circumstances. Not only can it be distracting for key personnel, taking them away from their core functions, but the risk of omission or getting it wrong is always present.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, iHR Australia has continued to provide advice and support services to many organisations across a range of different industries. Our workplace relations experts are continually working across, and keeping up to date with all the various workplace changes in every industry, to ensure that iHR Australia is in a position to understand the changes impacting various industries, in order to give its clients the best and most up to date advice and support.