Zoe Woolacott | 27 Mar 2020

Home working not viable for most employers tackling pressures of COVID-19


 For immediate release


Home working not viable for most employers tackling pressures of COVID-19


Most employers are not prepared for large swathes of staff to work from home, according to a poll of 81 HR professionals conducted by Incomes Data Research (IDR).

 With new cases of coronavirus arising increasingly rapidly, employers were asked about their policies for dealing with homeworking and sickness, and any changes to these in light of the coronavirus.


The poll found that:


·        just 4% of businesses have the ability for their entire workforce to work from home.

·        home working is typically available for around a quarter of an employer’s workforce

·        employees’ access to home working is often limited by the role they undertake, such as driving, manufacturing and customer-facing jobs, or due to technology limitations

·        some employers have improved sick pay provision for zero-hours workers

Sick pay

The vast majority (89%) of respondents to the poll already improve on statutory sick pay provisions (currently £94.25 a week for up to 28 weeks and payable from the first day of illness following the Government’s elimination of waiting days last week) and do so for most, if not all, of their staff. None of the 11% of employers that only offer statutory sick pay indicated that they had plans to enhance sick pay terms to support self-isolation. Most of these organisations have limited scope for home working due to the nature of their industry, such as retail and manufacturing.


However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has prompted 14 employers with enhanced sick pay terms to change, or make plans to change, their policies further. In most cases this is on a temporary basis and relates to self-isolation, where full pay will be paid to staff as employers attempt to fulfil their duty in preventing the spread of coronavirus. Some respondents indicated that self-isolation would not be counted when monitoring absenteeism or that full pay for periods of self-isolation would not affect any future claim for enhanced sick pay.  Others told us that new employees will receive full pay during self-isolation when they might not usually qualify for this under normal policies. 


‘In some cases zero-hours workers will receive statutory sick pay during self-isolation or even have their pay enhanced to mirror that for permanent workers’, commented Zoe Woolacott from IDR. ‘For those who offer enhanced sick pay terms, there is the question of what represents a typical day’s pay for zero-hours workers. One company told us they would base any such calculations on average weekly earnings for the preceding 13 weeks.’ 


Preventing the spread of COVID-19

The poll also found that employers are following the advice for businesses from Public Health England (PHE) on the prevention and spread of the virus by actively promoting cleanliness with new dispensers for hand washing, and by sharing advice with their employees and visitors on posters or via their intranet sites. Other steps being taken by employers include:

·        cancelling non-essential travel

·        increasing use of video conferencing tools, such as Skype and Webex

·        employees taking laptops home daily and keeping equipment fully charged

·        screening employees returning to the UK from countries/areas deemed ‘category 1’ or ‘category 2’ by Public Health England

·        reviewing business continuity plans

·        enhancing office cleaning procedures


One firm has turned off comfort cooling which re-circulates air, and another has asked employees not to shake hands.

Notes for Editors:

IDR is an independent research organisation specialising in the pay and employment field. It conducted the poll of HR professionals between 4-10 March 2020. The poll received 81 responses from mainly large private-sector firms.

For any queries relating to this research please contact Zoe Woolacott on 01702 669549 or at zoewoolacott@incomesdataresearch.co.uk