Part one of our 'Flying against the headwinds' series looks at preventative measures in the workplace during a time of crisis.
1. How should employers come up with their best practice guidelines for crisis management?
In times of public health crises, international organisations, such as the World Health Organization ("WHO"), and governmental bodies, invariably publish guidelines on how individuals should protect themselves. These are a good starting point for creating employers' guidelines.
2. What are some suggested common measures in these guidelines that employers should put in place?
Some common measures that employers could put in place include maintaining good ventilation, disinfecting commonly-used equipment, providing hand soap in toilets, providing face masks when necessary, communicating relevant guidelines to employees, and reminding employees with fever not to attend work.
3. In light of COVID-19, under what circumstances should employers provide face masks?
To curb the spread of any epidemic, employers should be encouraged to provide surgical masks and other necessary protective equipment to frontline staff, particularly if they display symptoms of any illness. These measures are always helpful in maintaining workplace hygiene, and they can also demonstrate that the employer has taken all reasonable steps to ensure employees' health and safety at work.
4. As an employer, if I follow governmental body guidelines, have I done all I can?
Employers should bear in mind that guidelines published by governmental bodies are often intended to address wider communities, and are not tailored for individual businesses. Further, viral outbreaks or indeed, any kinds of crises, are by no means the only possible threat to employees' wellness. When working out the best practice to discharge their duty owed to employees, employers should consider, for example, the nature of the crisis, their business nature, and labour protection regulations applicable to them.