Coronavirus and HR managers’ obligations

Publication Year : 2020

Coronavirus may cause serious damage to Pakistan. If an outbreak is spreading then a sense of calm is necessary. Employees should feel that they are in good hands as the management is concerned about their welfare. Even if companies do not have epidemic-related policies, many have disaster-preparedness policies that are similar. The World Health Organisation is reaching out to Fortune 500 employers, asking them to educate their workers.Throughout Pakistan, most of the people live with large extended families, often in the same house or the family compound. Epidemic diseases are more dangerous in such societies. Generally, we hide chronic diseases like cancer, tuberculosis, and HIV positive because of our social values and strong family bindings.So, the foremost responsibility of the human resource (HR) department is to build their employees’ confidence so that in case of any symptoms they inform their manager. HR managers should educate them that isolation is the only way to stop the spread of the coronavirus virus and hence is important for them, their families and their coworkers.As the disease spreads exponentially, organisations should develop future work plans accordinglyLast week, Jazz CEO Aamir Ibrahim issued a health advisory. He said: “I want to assure you that in these difficult times, your wellbeing is my foremost concern. I am also equally aware of our obligation to provide continuity of our services to millions of Pakistanis who rely on us for their daily communication, entertainment, banking and information needs.” This message definitely boosts employees’ morale and engagement with the organisation. Many other corporations also issued these types of advisories for their employees.HR managers and management should answer the following questions and inform their employees:• Are employees required to disclose whether or not they feel ill to management?• If an employee suspects that one of his colleagues is feeling sick, should he report it?• When will management decide that the workplace is not safe?• Which objects such as files, letters, workstations and other shared facilities are protected and can an employee refuse to share them?• What is the travelling policy of the organisation, especially during this pandemic?• What can management do if a sick employee refuses to leave the workspace?• How do management and coworkers treat a person if he is quarantined?• If an employee is infected by the virus, what is the company’s policy regarding leaves, medical expenses, wages and salaries?• What recourses are available if an employee exhausts his leaves and is ineligible for work-at-home?These questions boost employee engagement, making them more responsible and helpful.HR managers should advocate for personal responsibility, inside the organisation and outside. Staff should be encouraged to stock up on medical items, foodstuff and hand sanitisers. In fact, a list of items that should be stocked up ought to be released. Educating employees helps address myths, misinformation and fear about the disease.The workplace should be made safe through repeated fumigations. Wellness programmes teaching good hygiene and the importance of responsible precautions need to be executed through lunch and learn sessions, emails, posters and other channels.At the time of writing of this article, official figures of those infected by the coronavirus in Pakistan were approaching 500. As the figure goes up exponentially, organisations should prepare for the spread of the virus and develop future work plans accordingly.The production department can reschedule its plans and service-providing institutions ought to adopt more precautions. Special advisories should be released for employees of banks and hospitals that are more vulnerable and thus arrange office timings with minimum staff. The only way to beat coronavirus is through precautionary measures and self-isolation.

The writer works at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics

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