One in 10 employers yet to send staff communications on coronavirus

People Management and CIPD survey reveals how HR professionals are responding to the virus, finding a mixed picture on approaches to internal comms and meetings and events 

One in 10 organisations are yet to send any communications to staff addressing the issue of coronavirus, a People Management and CIPD survey has found.

As the spread of the virus, also known as Covid-19, continues across the UK, People Management and the CIPD have polled more than 640 HR professionals to find out what they are doing in their organisations to deal with the threats posed to the health of employees and their businesses.

HR professionals answered questions on continuity planning, sick pay and self-isolation, and People Management will be releasing the results throughout the week.

When asked how they were keeping employees informed in light of the coronavirus outbreak, 4 per cent of respondents reported they were yet to send any formal messaging but intended to, 2 per cent said they hadn’t sent any communications and were not planning to, and a further 4 per cent said while they hadn’t sent any formal communications, they were encouraging managers to have conversations with staff. 

The vast majority of respondents (71 per cent) said they had sent one or two staff communications but did not want to cause undue panic, while almost a fifth (18 per cent) said they were communicating with staff on an at least daily basis. 

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Katie Jacobs, senior stakeholder lead at the CIPD, said: “There is never a time for undue panic, but there is a responsibility and obligation on employers to be proactive when people's health is at risk.” But employers were not going to be able to avoid making some “difficult calls” when it came to frequency of communications and maintaining a balance between regular updates and keeping staff calm, she added.

Despite this challenge, the difficult business environment created by coronavirus presented an “opportunity to look at alternative solutions for collaboration, embracing digital tools that allow employees to communicate and collaborate from home”, said Jacobs.

Rebecca Bull, owner and founder of consultancy My HR Hub, said communication was essential in businesses of all sizes. Employers must ensure employees were fully aware of recommendations around hygiene and hand washing, what to do if feeling ill, and company policy on issues such as self-isolation and sick pay, she said.

Bull emphasised the importance of making staff aware that those feeling concerned should speak to HR “as soon as they possibly can”. Employers should also be having conversations with staff about whether they have travelled or plan to travel abroad, and whether anyone in their household or network is self-isolating or affected by coronavirus.

The People Management and CIPD survey also found a third of organisations were discouraging staff from going to external meetings where not absolutely necessary.

While the majority of professionals surveyed (60 per cent) said they were currently encouraging employees to proceed as ‘business as usual’ in regards to business events and meetings, 34 per cent said staff were being discouraged from attending non-essential external meetings.

Just over a fifth (23 per cent) reported cancelling all large external events such as conferences, while 13 per cent said they were cancelling large internal events such as town halls too.

Bull said these findings cohered with her experiences so far, reporting that many larger clients had already banned all business travel and cancelled larger events. However, she noted that while larger companies had the resources and infrastructure to enact such responses quickly, smaller firms were struggling. “[Smaller businesses] are the ones that need more of a steer in terms of getting something in place around business continuity,” she said.

This is the third in a series of articles this week revealing the results of People Management and the CIPD’s exclusive coronavirus survey. Check the site tomorrow for more