Are Covid claims the next nightmare for employers?

It’s important for HR professionals to keep hold of any paperwork or resources they used during the pandemic in case they’re subsequently needed, highlights Laura Ibbotson

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Some might say that Covid is all but forgotten – in some ways it’s hard to remember what we all went through in the last two years, all facing different personal and business challenges. Same storm, different boats, etc. When we look back on the previous two years we all have different stories – some sad, some happy – but one thing is for sure: we got through it together. 

One risk that some employers may not have considered is the potential legal action that businesses could face in how they dealt with Covid regulations and issues. Like most of the Covid pandemic we faced, the future is still unclear. Will Covid claims become the new PPI claims? Here are some suggestions on how you could protect and prepare your business against any future potential Covid claims;

Save documentation to show you changed in line with government guidelines

This could include emails to staff, staff notices, staff surveys, letters, newsletters, meetings that took place and calls made to staff. Save anything you have discussed that was Covid related or explained how you intended to protect your staff.

Wellbeing emails and any risk assessments 

What did your business do in regards to wellbeing? This can be both physical and mental health. Did you send advice out or introduce help lines? What risk assessments were carried out and where did you document them.

Information on zero transmitted periods

If you had any periods of zero transmissions, record these periods – including if you have different sites with zero transmission periods. 

Sickness records of those who were absent with Covid

This will be incredibly important in any potential legal defences. Did the employee in question actually have time off work during said dates?

Company sick pay and isolation details

What company sick pay did you pay to employees absent from work with Covid, including those isolating?

Equipment

Did you purchase any Covid related equipment or PPE? Did you install electronic temperature checks, lateral flow tests, CO2 monitors, signage, posters or videos on how to stay safe?

Training

Did you run any internal or external training for staff? As a result of Covid and wanting to support your staff, did you train any mental health first aiders?

At Heras, we were one of only 200 UK firms praised by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) for how we dealt with Covid, and we will be sure to save this information. 

Key takeaways

  • Take action now, while Covid is still fresh in everyone’s mind.

  • Ensure a wide range of staff know exactly where this documentation is recorded to safeguard the business should any key personnel leave. 

  • Remember that it only takes one claim to be successful before lawyers send letters to all of your staff asking if they too want to submit a claim.

  • The guidance never went through parliament and therefore was not law, just guidance, so a business would not be able to use this as its defence.

Risk assessments for those that continue to work from home

The world has now changed, to remain attractive to candidates and retain key talent, most businesses are now offering hybrid working.

Those businesses that have not carried out risk and VDU assessments but are allowing employees to continue to work from home must do so. This is now not only about protecting the business from legal action, but doing the right thing by our staff and their future health.

Laura Ibbotson is UK HR manager at Heras