Coronavirus: Howden urges employers to adopt 3-step worker support plan

Employers in the United Kingdom are already formulating their plans to help contain and combat COVID-19.  Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing (Howden) suggest three important steps that should be included in this planning.

In the last few days the UK Government has set out its thinking and plans to combat the spread of Covid-19.  Despite the national efforts to contain the virus, it is now widely accepted by experts that the nation may now be moving towards the “delay” stage of this plan. 

Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing are aware that more far-sighted employers are now formulating their own corporate plans in this respect, and have also seen evidence that many employers have already issued company-wide edicts advising against non-essential travel or meetings.

Steve Herbert, Head of Benefits Strategy at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing said;

“It’s a promising sign that so many employers are already reacting to this threat without awaiting formal edicts from the government.  From both a business and employment perspective it’s important to limit the spread of the virus, and the first priority of all good employers must be the health and welfare of employees, their families, clients, and suppliers.”

Howden suggests that it is now likely that at least a few employers across the UK will probably have to implement some form of quarantine procedure, implement home working for all, or shut down sites for a short period of time.  It follows that employers – and Human Resources (HR) professionals in particular – now need to consider how best to support both the employer and employees throughout this unusual situation. 

Herbert continued;

“A crucial component of this planning must be to ensure that employees feel supported throughout this period, and that as many as possible remain engaged with the aims and objectives of their employment until usual working practices are able to resume.”

Howden believe there are three key items than any employer should include in their Coronavirus disaster-planning;

  1. Communications & Engagement

Firstly, it’s vital that the flow of communications to and from line management remains as close to normal as is possible.  So Howden would encourage the HR team to include company edicts on regular remote audio and/or visual communications between line managers and their teams throughout any period of home working or close down.  This will avoid a loss of focus and engagement, and ensure that corporate messages are still effectively communicated to all.

  • Practical Support

Although Coronavirus will doubtless be dominating the health headlines, employees will continue to face the everyday challenges of life.  Other health conditions will still need diagnosis and possibly treatment too – and the National Health Service could well be stretched dealing with the current crisis.  So it really important that employers emphasise the wellbeing support on offer, such as remote access to a qualified GPs, private healthcare, or cash-plans.

  • Advice & Guidance

Finally, and certainly not least, the importance of “remote” guidance and support options should be reinforced.  Access to Employee Assistance Plans, Counselling Lines, and Debt Management Advice should all be highlighted – and usage encouraged – to help employees respond to any challenges during a period when their usual work support-structure may not be as evident.

Herbert concluded:

“We believe that these three simple steps will help employers retain both worker engagement and good health, both of which will be really essential to employers as they look to bounce-back from any enforced period of change as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.  We would strongly encourage HR professionals to include these important steps in their planning.”