The coronavirus pandemic is changing workplaces and the way that we interact with colleagues, and big changes are taking place in the field of HR management. HR professionals are quickly adapting to the challenges brought on by this new environment.
Protecting employees from health risks
In South Africa, businesses are slowly starting to return to work. Employers now have to implement a whole new set of measures to protect employees in the workplace. Much of this responsibility rests with HR professionals.
According to the regulations in the Disaster Management Act, workplaces must develop a plan for the return of employees to the workplace.
The plan must set out measures such as:
- Which employees are permitted to return to work.
- What the plans are for phased return of employees.
- What preventative measures have been put in place to limit the risks of Covid-19 transmission.
The following measures must be taken by HR professionals to make the workplace safe:
- There must be appropriate social distancing between employees. Workplaces can only have a certain number of employees in their buildings at any one time.
- Workplaces must do regular cleaning and disinfecting.
- The appropriate personal protective equipment, such as facemasks, must be provided to employees at workplaces.
- There should be screening facilities in place to screen for symptoms of Covid-19.
- The safety of customers should also be taken into account. Companies must practice sanitisation and social distancing measures with their customers.
- Employees who are able to return to work must have the appropriate permits proving that they are permitted to go to a workplace.
- If an employee tests positive for Covid-19, then the Department of Health and Labour need to be informed immediately so that the appropriate steps can be taken to prevent an outbreak.
These regulations are likely to apply for many more months to come. It is clear that the role of the HR professional has now become more important than ever before.
HR professionals must adapt to remote working
Another aspect that HR professionals have to take into account is managing employees who work from home. During the pandemic, many companies have migrated to a work-from-home policy. Government’s regulations state that any employer who is able to work from home, should do so. This particularly applies to employees who may be more at risk of suffering health complications as a result of Covid-19. These include people over the age of 60, and those with underlying health conditions.
This new environment poses unique challenges to HR management. But through channels such as email, Skype and other technologies, many of these challenges can be effectively addressed. HR professionals must therefore be prepared to embrace the use of technology in their daily functions.
HR professionals must ensure awareness and compliance
HR professionals are responsible for keeping employees aware of important developments in the workplace. This function has now extended to ensuring awareness of Covid-19. So HR professionals must create awareness about things like how the virus spreads and the measures that employees should take to prevent transmission.
HR managers also need to ensure that all employees are following regulations. This relates to aspects such as social distancing, proper hygiene and reporting any symptoms that could be related to Covid-19. When an employee has Covid-19 symptoms, they should be encouraged to stay home and take sick leave.
HR professionals certainly have a lot more to deal with than before the virus arrived. Their responsibility to protect employees is now greater than ever before. In these trying times, they should be viewed as workplace heroes!