Working from home with Covid: Advice for line managers

Posted by Zoe Machin on 13/11/20 14:13
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In the ‘old normal’, there was a clear line between working and being off sick.
Things have changed. Zoe Machin explains how FirstCare have responded to a new grey area

In the world of work, we all have rights and obligations, and those that relate to taking time off are paramount for maintaining a productive, healthy organisation.

The employee needs to keep their employer informed about their circumstances, particularly if their ability to work is affected. The employer has a duty of care to protect the individual’s health and wellbeing during their employment. In the past, there has been a clear distinction. You were either at work or not at work. If you were not, and your absence was unplanned, the reasons can be defined.

Keeping up-to-date and reliable records is a vital capability for leadership teams. Without visibility of the needs of your employees, you are unable to track and respond to those who are absent due to illness, injury or caring for loved ones.

It’s only by capturing this data that line managers and specialists in the leadership team can intervene in a timely and appropriate manner. Precise and reliable information is essential; to manage resources, identify organisational problems and to support employees.

Off work. Not sick.

The arrival of Covid-19 brought with it many new challenges and new complexity. In particular, the need to mitigate the risk of infection through various means of self-isolation and social distancing.

In addition, there’s a new grey area that we all need to recognise. It’s now possible to be working from home while also being infected by coronavirus. Moreover, without universal testing, this new category comprises both those who are confirmed to have Covid and also those who are suspected to be infected.

At FirstCare we log each absence; our nurse-led support team assesses each incidence and records the reason. Categories already include  various medical and non-medical circumstances. Where appropriate, details of symptoms will be logged and if further care is required, a referral is made. Real-time insights are available to identify trends, hotspots and emerging problems, whether due to infection, mental health or accidents.

New Covid-related categories

Our service is constantly evolving and in response to requests from a number of customers across the UK, we’ve made some important changes. To ensure leadership teams get the very best insights and employees receive the right support, we’re trialing the addition of new categories to record the circumstances of staff with even more precision.


More detailed data. More insights.

In simple terms, our advisors will record occurrences where a member of staff is temporarily working from home due to confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

This enhancement to our service will be rolled out during November as a pilot. On implementation, it will allow HR managers and their C-suite to run more detailed analyses within the FirstCare Insight™ platform, highlighting the impact of coronavirus. The resultant reports will clearly indicate which staff are not able to work and which are working but temporarily from home.

The same easy-to-use service for Member employees

This won’t affect the service that Members receive when they call in with an absence. Our frontline staff are trained and prepared with new guidance. Employees supported by FirstCare simply need to pick up the phone and we’ll ensure they get the right advice and their circumstances are properly logged.

Choice and consent

Rolling out this new capability across the country will enable us to give leadership teams data that benchmarks their organisation's practices and performance against others. However, our customers can choose to opt out of this new trial. And, it's important to reiterate that  any arrangements for staff to work from home always need to be discussed, understood and agreed between between the employee and their line manager.

Finally... Remember to stay safe!

Got symptoms? Get a test.

Crucially, if you present symptoms of Covid-19 you should seek medical care and have a test.

Feel unwell? Take some rest.

Whether you’re found to be positive or not, if symptoms persist and you’re unwell, you should inform your employer and take the appropriate time off to rest and recuperate.

Feel OK? You could work from home

If it’s confirmed that you do have the virus you must take the necessary precautions to avoid spreading the disease to others. If you don’t feel unwell – and many people experience an ‘asymptomatic’ infection with Covid – and you feel you are able to work from home, you must notify your employers.

Zoe Machin is Head of Account Management at FirstCare, overseeing a nationwide team that provides operational support and workplace analyses for large employers.


Topics: Absence Management, Remote Working, Compliance, Leadership, WFH, Working from Home, Management, Absence