6th May 2020

7 considerations for developing your agency’s COVID-19 Back to Work Safely Policy


‘Back to Work’ Vs. ‘Stay at Home’ is a false dilemma. We have to get temps and contractors back to work while minimising the infection risks of working onsite.

Eagerly anticipating the return to work

There is no shortage of business communications that discuss the issues related to work and productivity resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. The economic impact of the shutdown,  the measures different countries are taking and infection and mortality rates are all the subject of extensive debate.
For vastly different reasons, the experiences of China, South Korea, Sweden and Germany figure large in the discussion. And almost everyone has got an opinion on what we should be doing to best balance the risk of spreading the infection while keeping the wheels of industry and commerce turning and the economy moving.
The European countries that were the first to experience the effects COVID-19 entered lockdown ahead of the others and are now relaxing their stay home policies and guidelines. Many others are preparing and waiting until they believe the time is right.
One very prominent strand of discussion is the topic of getting back to work safely. Media channels are awash with guidelines on how to safely return to work while the spectre of coronavirus looms large over us.
Businesses that are essential have been reconfiguring the way things are done on the fly, putting both recommended and optional measures in place while continuing to conduct operations. Many others that are held in a state of suspended animation are eagerly making preparations, anticipating the return to work.

Protecting the health of agency supplied staff working onsite

The question of agency supplied workers requires a little thought. The first question that needs to be asked is whether a role can be carried out by the temp or contractor working from home?
Assuming a role is self-managed without the need for continual supervision, many knowledge workers are likely to be able to work remotely. In such cases, the viability of home working usually revolves around:

Should there be issues with any of these then it may not be possible for contractors to operate remotely.
In such cases, and for roles where hirers insist contractors work in the office because it is an essential requirement to successfully do the job, how do you make sure the health of your workers is not compromised by the working conditions of your clients’ sites?
Adapting social distancing measures for working environments and creating new protocols specifically for work places are essential if all workers – both permanent employees and contractors – are to be protected by minimising the risk of infection.
Where we need to set out a formalised and structured approach that defines where your agency stands on such matters, it is highly advisable to use a policy led approach.
As some of the commercial world goes back or anticipates a return to work soon, here are seven things to consider when developing a policy to protect your agency’s workers.

1. Do your research

There are plenty of guidelines and recommendations out there from many reputable, trusted sources. From high level government, regulatory and industrial bodies such as uk.gov, the TUC, ACAS and the CIPD, there is a plethora of content out there to help recruiters get up to speed. Consulting businesses such as McKinsey and PwC are also good sources of reliable information.

2. Work out what your ideal policy looks like

Create your own policy. This is not intended to be a lengthy legal-esque language exercise. In fact it is better to stich your own policy together using the sources of high reputational worth that you have just researched! Cut, Copy and Paste; rob, mix and match; beg borrow and steal from the ones already out there because they have done the legwork for you! Modify where necessary to create the policy that makes the best sense and works for your agency.

3. Communicate your policy to clients

Share your policy and ask your clients for comments. Agency – Client relationships are sensitive. They are often predicated on personal relationships between agency account managers or directors, and key stakeholders or sponsors within the hiring companies. It is probably best to share with each client on a case by case basis, rather than through an email blast or a sudden COVID-19 policy statement update on your website.

4. Find out your clients’ own policies and collaborate

As part of your dialogue with each client, ask if you can see their policies. This allows you to quickly understand their thinking. It also opens the door to a collaborative effort and sends a signal that addressing the issue is a shared endeavour, and it is in your mutual interest to work together.

5. Be prepared to negotiate

There may be some gaps between your agency policies and the policies of your clients. Differences may just be oversights resulting from the short timeframe in which information has been pulled together. It is likely that it may just require the two sets of policies brought into alignment. Avoid gaps becoming deal breakers; communicate to clear them up and be prepared to negotiate where differences actually exist.

6. Communicate with your workers

Once your agency and clients are on the same page, it is time to communicate the position to your workers. This means to both agency supplied temps and contractors and your agency back-office employees. Everyone needs to be in the loop so that there is no room for confusion or misunderstanding.

7. Quality Management through feedback

Getting feedback is an essential element in understanding how well coronavirus workplace safety polices are translating into practice. Listen to the comments made by your temps and contractors as well as your clients. This enables you to perform Quality Management improving performance, and addressing any areas that raise concerns from either side.

Agencies minimise coronavirus onsite workplace infection risks with ETZ

ETZ helps protect agency workers working onsite by eliminating the sharing of pens and the passing around of paper timesheet forms, both potential sources of infection. Why not consider including our online timesheets and back office software as part of your agency’s COVID-19 Back To Work Safely Policy?
To find out more about how our technology platform helps you minimise the risk to agency supplied temps and contractors, simply contact us today. Call us on 0800 311 2266 or book a demo.

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