9 policy and procedure areas to cover off for COVID- 19

Good policies and procedures can help you steer the course  – keep you on track with your compliance and guard against panicked decision making in a time of emergency.

Are all policies and procedures equally important in a time of emergency?

Not all. Here’s what we prioritise.

Compliance

Policies and procedures addressing compliance with regulations and standards.  These are the “must dos”.  They can help you decide what and how you might pare back to save money and if need be, make changes to how you operate.

Pandemic policy/plan

An obvious policy.

As indicated by the recent resurgence of COVID-19 in Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland, the plan needs to be robust enough to support flexible and quick responses to changing Alert levels.  If your plan is based on a linear trajectory, it should be updated accordingly.

While you’re at it, check that your plan is consistent with the legislated requirements for contact tracing, restrictions on movements and physical distancing.

Staff at risk of infection 

The situation of staff in this circumstance can be part of a pandemic or leave policy or because of its high-interest value, as a separate policy.  The status of and responses to staff in the following circumstances should be clarified:

  • staff exposed to infection through an event or personal contact (ie where increased risk)
  • staff concerned about risk (but no indications of exposure)
  • staff who may be especially vulnerable to infection because of a pre-existing condition, age etc
  • staff are quarantined/required to self-isolate (may differentiate cases where it was forseeable/not forseeable)
  • staff returning from international travel
  • community lock-down.

Leave policy

Employees’ minimum leave entitlements are addressed in legislation. Organisations will have their own policy and procedure where leave is above the minimum and to outline how leave should be applied for etc.

Leave entitlements are especially important for staff when jobs start looking uncertain. It will also be pressing for staff at risk of infection, staff who become sick and those caring for dependents.

Your leave policy should address the application process for annual leave, sick leave, dependent/caregiver leave (may be added to or part of sick leave) and access to other leave – eg paid special leave; unpaid leave.

Flexible working policy

This policy should cover the relevant legal requirements eg that arrangements are requested and responded to, when formality might be waived and reasons why a request might be declined. It should cover options such as staff working on flexible schedules and in remote locations; recording variations to employment terms, clocking in and out, shared calendars and monitoring and review of arrangements.

Working from home policy

Working from home is a form of remote working. It could be part of your flexible working policy. However, its become a dominant way of working while in the pandemic so we think it warrants specific attention as a policy.

Your policy should cover expectations for how and when work is to be achieved, connection with the mothership (ie workplace and other colleagues), workplace hui; shared calendar and time recording; health and safety; roles and responsibilities.  See here for help.

IT, privacy & communications policy

Most organisations will have policies about what’s acceptable/unacceptable use of email, online systems, software and social media.  If staff are moving to remote working, it’s important that these policies cover roles and responsibilities, (eg for hardware, authorisations, arranging staff logins), safeguards for the transfer,  use and recording of organisational and personal information and log in/access to online organisational resources including client management system and policies and procedures.

Diversity and inclusion

This may seem a surprising “must have” for Covid 19. It reflects the law (eg Human Rights Act; health and disability and social sector accreditation standards.)

We’ve included it here to counter the risks of xenophobia and exclusion. There have been instances of racist attacks related to Covid-19 and more recently, animosity towards returning citizens and residents.  Yes, we’re concerned about health and safety. But this can not be at the expense of equality.

We all benefit from inclusive and welcoming work cultures where staff and others who may be infectious are supported and disinformation about the virus is rejected.

Delegations

If you’re a funded social or health service you’re required to have a delegations policy. At least, you should be able to evidence clear parameters around management versus governance functions and powers.

With Covid 19, it may be a good idea to think more extensively about delegations. For business continuity purposes, delegations should be in place and enable sufficient cover for when usual decision-makers are absent or become ill.

Ways you can address these areas

For those who’ve got it all covered, make sure your staff are aware of the policies. Enable their  24/7 access to your policies, procedures and other systems if they start to work remotely.

If you haven’t got them covered, it’s not too late. You can:

  • amend your related policies to cover off the key areas
  • develop and incorporate new procedures into existing policies
  • contact us for help so it’s one less worry and there’s less stress.

For those into DIY, check out some of our other posts and these resources for help with drafting your policies:

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