HR and the pingdemic – what should employers do?

More than half a million people were pinged by the NHS Track and Trace app this last week, requiring them to remain at home and isolate. With around 1.6million currently isolating, there is immense pressure on many businesses across the country. Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula, looks at what HR should do if an employee is ‘pinged’.

“If an employee is pinged while they are at work, it’s important that HR makes sure that they leave the workplace immediately and do not come back for duration of the isolation period; employers who knowingly allow an employee to attend the workplace during isolation can be fined by the Government. If the employee is able to work from home, this should be arranged so that there is no disruption. If not, the employee might be entitled to get statutory sick pay. If an employee who has to isolate is looking for a way to maintain full pay during their isolation period, HR could agree a short notice annual leave request to cover this time if available.

“Pings occur when someone has been in close contact with another person who has tested positive. Employers can try to avoid close contact happening within the workplace by having strict rules on social distancing in place, even though the Government line on this may be relaxing in some areas. Although employers cannot control what their employees do outside of work, it may be useful to give a gentle reminder that actions outside of work can have an impact on people in work.

“It’s always good practice to have HR policies in place that cover all eventualities, so that employees know there they stand. Businesses may find it useful to have a policy on self-isolation as a whole which lays out what arrangements will apply during any period of self-isolation, including the possibility of homeworking. This could be included within the company’s overall COVID policy, along with workplace safety measures, or as a stand-alone.

“COVID secure regulations are still in place in England over the weekend, and restrictions on social distancing continue to apply in Scotland and Wales. Strict adherence to these by employees in the workplace already or those coming back into the workplace will help to guard against close contact. Inevitably though there will be an increase in instances of employees being pinged and having to self-isolate, so it’s important that employers proactively prepare for this in order to minimise any disruption to their business.”