Coronavirus – considerations for agencies supplying temps
As concern grows over a global epidemic of coronavirus, businesses in the UK are putting contingencies in place for such a situation. Closing the doors temporarily or working remotely simply isn’t an option for some sectors, and many businesses will be planning on using temporary staff to step into the breach.
Coronavirus – agency considerations
Here are some considerations for agencies who may be supplying temporary workers to cover staff shortages should the coronavirus crisis escalate:
Agency and gig workers are not usually entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, so they may be less likely to self-isolate due to loss of income. Even a legal obligation to self-isolate would be difficult to enforce if there is no employment relationship.
However, as a supplier of temporary staff, you should think about what you can reasonably do to mitigate risk and reassure end users.
An example would be to include temporary workers in any training on transmission prevention.
Under Regulation 18 of the Conduct Regs, staffing companies are legally obliged to obtain details of risks to health from end users, and what steps they have taken to control any such risks. A complaint from a worker could result in action being taken against the agency by the regulator.
Under Regulation 20, agencies are obliged to make enquiries as to whether a candidate may be at risk of suffering from the virus, such as asking them about recent travel and health. If you find out that a candidate is unsuitable, you are obliged to inform the client on the same day.
As a caveat to the above, you should also be mindful that information you get from candidates about their health is sensitive personal data. The Conduct Regs seems to give you legal grounds to collect data on candidates who will be in physical contact with the end client’s staff, but make sure your Data Protection policies are up to date in terms of how you use and retain that data.
Disruption caused by the coronavirus now seems highly likely, so you should make sure your contracts are clear about the impact of an epidemic. This may include both parties agreeing to a temporary relaxation of service levels, or certain KPIs relating to the supply of staff.
You should also be wary about being contractually tied to supplying staff at certain rates. At the height of any period of disruption, certain temporary workers will come at a premium, so you should budget for this and prepare clients to expect some rate increases.
It may be commercially prudent to look at which roles can’t be performed from home and line up candidates to serve this demand in the event of disruption caused by the coronavirus.
Public transport is likely to be affected during an epidemic, so you may want to look at local candiates who are within walking distance to the end user’s site.
Liquid Friday contractors
As an endnote, we’d like to remind all of our agencies that candidates who are paid under Liquid Friday’s umbrella payroll, are our employees.
They are entitled to SSP if they are medically signed off (including for self-isolation) and also fall under our Health and Safety policies and procedures. Additional training and awareness will be considered for all employees in the event of a UK coronvirus epidemic.
Get the latest government information advice on the coronavirus here.