Sick leave, remote working and data security policy guidelines

One Circle's Emma El-Karout provides tips on how to tweak your policies for the current climate. 

Working from home may not be offered by your business. But now that you have no choice, it is important to provide clear guidance to employees about work-at-home expectations when “not unwell” and expectations for the use of paid leave when not able to work. Determine how payment will be handled during the absence of employees who are not able to perform work from home. 

Now might also be the right time to re-evaluate your sick leave policies. A lack of paid sick days as part of a reward package contributed to an additional five million cases of influenza-like illness during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, according to a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Consider whether extended sick leave days, in addition to any mandated days, while maintaining traditional caps may force unwell people to come into the office. You may want to reconsider sick leave note requirements with a healthy dose of pragmatism. There will be cases where your people need to stay home when not feeling well but are not sick enough to warrant going to the doctor. 

Yes this can happen on a Monday and a Friday (or Sunday and Thursday, too.) You do not want them in clinics and hospitals in such cases, places that are high risk when they are weak and their immunity levels are down. Remember, this is a dynamic and fluid situation. Employees will be looking to you for guidance and direction. Have a plan in place to help ensure you can proactively address some of their concerns and uncertainty as the event unfolds over the coming months.

Twitter and Square – among many others – are doing it already. A widely circulated memo from Microsoft has set out clear guidelines for working from home along with other essential information:

Flexibility is advised to ensure the prevention of the spread of germs. This means allowing employees to work from home or utilise sick days as needed and in a manner that will maintain the health and level-headedness of your people is required.

You should communicate that you recognise that employees with ill family members may need to stay home to care for them. Here are some adjustments to internal policies that you may need to consider:

  • Increase the threshold of absent days, or allowing employees to pool sick, vacation and personal days.
  • Start a “shared sick leave” program to allow some workers to share their paid time off with co-workers.
  • Encourage employees to get the appropriate checks when deemed necessary and determine whether the company will subsidise the costs.
  • Provide options for emergency child-care assistance.
  • Have employees update personal and emergency contact information in the company’s HRIS system.
  • Assure employees of their continued job security.

Use of technology and tools policy and guidelines 

Certain collaboration tools, (MS Teams / Dropbox / Skype for Business), allow employees to connect and share documentation from any location. Should these systems not be in place already, how quickly can they be purchased, installed or rolled out? Financial implications need to be considered in this regard.

Review the company policy on providing laptops or tablets. Most companies have an internal policy that restricts laptops or tablets and access through a mobile device to salesforce or outlook by employee level. The business needs to decide whether they will provide those tools to employees.

HR and legal departments need to review existing policies and applicability in this context. An additional element would be to communicate all changes in policies and make this communication available to everyone. Assigning a focal point to answer queries would be advisable