Updates on COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Get the latest advice for businesses in Scotland on the response to the outbreak, including financial support and business relief

Supporting your staff during COVID-19

As businesses face into a period of uncertainty and change, it is even more important to be considering the wellbeing of your staff.

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Whether you have employees who are furloughed, working from home, or adapting their working practices, it is important to ensure they feel supported and engaged to enable you to continue your business now and in the future.

Many people are experiencing a time of heightened anxiety which could be linked to uncertainty about their work, or due to their personal circumstances. It is important that you maintain regular contact with your staff about what is expected of them now, and keeping them up to date with any potential changes to their work.

Supporting your staff through COVID-19

As businesses and their staff face into a period of uncertainty and change, it is even more important to be considering the wellbeing of your staff. Whether you have employees who are furloughed, working from home, or adapting their working practices, it is important to ensure they feel supported and engaged to enable you to continue your business now and in the future.

Many people are experiencing a time of heightened anxiety which could be linked to uncertainty about their work, or due to their personal circumstances. It is important that you maintain regular contact with your staff about what is expected of them now, and keeping them up to date with any potential changes to their work.

If you have concerns about how to support your staff during this time, you can access information and guidance for line managers on supporting staff well-being. You can also support your staff by sharing resources that they can use to look after their own well-being during this time. Some examples of useful websites can be found at Well-being Support. Sharing advice on how to cope during lockdown can be an effective way of maintaining regular communication with staff who are furloughed in order to keep them engaged in anticipation of returning to work.

Your staff may also be experiencing a wide range of personal issues such as bereavement, addiction or domestic abuse. The BBC Action Line provides information on a wide range of topics so it may be beneficial to promote this to your employees to allow them to access information and support if they need it.

Preparing to return to work

The Scottish Government have published guidance on returning to work safely, including a template that you can use to complete individual risk assessments for your staff. These risk assessments take into account that factors such as age, ethnicity, BMI and underlying health conditions can all impact the risk that individual staff face returning to work.

If you handle the transition from furlough/working from home back to the workplace with support and care, it is more likely to be successful. There may have been a number of changes in the workplace or at home for your staff, and they could be experiencing additional stress or anxiety. Further guidance has been developed by Healthy Working Lives to help employers manage a return to work after lockdown.

If staff are moving back into the workplace, you should take steps to reduce any risks for staff based on their individual circumstances and be mindful that staff in higher risk categories may be more anxious about a return to work. A helpline has been introduced by CEMVO Scotland to provide specific advice to individuals from ethnic minority communities who are looking for further information on social distancing and self-isolating (07500 839 303).

There has also been a helpline set up to provide mental well-being support to staff working in health and social care who may be looking for advice on things like managing stress and anxiety, fatigue, sleep, relaxation and exercise.

Where staff have been furloughed, it is important to maintain communication with them to keep them engaged and updated on any changes to the business. You should also consider what training or development staff might need to help them adapt back to the workplace. Further information can be found in the Returning to Work Planning Checklist in this blog from Scottish Enterprise.

Supporting disabled staff

Changes in where and how people are working might mean disabled employees need new or different support to do their job. This will be individual to the person and their role so the best thing to do is have a conversation with your employee about what support they might need to continue to do their job effectively.

Even where you don’t think there will be a change to someone’s support needs, it is good practice to discuss this with them to check this is correct.

Disabled employees can access funding for workplace adjustments through the Government’s Access to Work scheme. Advice on making workplace adjustments for disabled staff can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

For all staff, it is important to discuss any changes to working practices and be clear on what this means for their job role. Staff are better able to maintain their productivity if they are clear on what is expected of them, but also know where they can access support or advice if they feel they are struggling to adapt to new ways of working. For some staff, this clarity can be even more important. For example, those with autism may struggle with changes to their routine, or may need extra time/support to enable them to adapt to change. There are resources available to support people with autism cope with the impact of these changes, including tops tips on working from home.

Being flexible with your approach

It is important to be willing to adapt and flex to be able to find a solution that works for you and your staff as many people are currently trying to juggle work and caring responsibilities.

Scottish Enterprise can offer advice to businesses to help them adapt as lockdown measures ease, and their website contains useful information on funding available to businesses.

Advice for employers on how to support those working from home, particularly those who are also caring for children or others during this time, can be found at Flexibility Works.

Here are some other resources to help you adapt right now:

  • Information on time off to look after dependants can be found on the ACAS website. You should consider temporary arrangements for paid leave for caring responsibilities that are additional to current leave entitlements in line with the Scottish Government’s Fair Work principles. You could also direct your employees to advice for unpaid carers, including information on funding and support available to them, can be found on the Scottish Government website.
  • Information on whether your staff are entitled to childcare or school provision as ‘key workers’ can be found on the Scottish Government website.
  • Trying to combine childcare and work can be demanding and exhausting so it is important to check in with your employees to find out how they are doing. For information and resources to help you support your employees’ mental well-being, please see the My World of Work Wellbeing Support page.

Staff and absense recovery

You should direct staff to government advice on financial support that they may be entitled to when self-isolating, this includes information on statutory sick pay (SSP) and benefits for those not eligible for SSP. People on low incomes may also be eligible for the new Self-Isolation Support Grant.

A recent report showed that up to one-third of patients admitted to hospital developed serious mental health consequences, including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and cognitive problem. In light of this, the Scottish Government is establishing a network of mental health support for patients for people who have been hospitalised due to Covid-19.