Businesses across the West Midlands are having to contend with the challenges of finding staff to fill absence caused by the ‘pingdemic’, according to HR Caddy.


The latest issue to hit employers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing many businesses to fill temporary vacancies caused by staff having to self-isolate after being “pinged” by the NHS COVID app.


In response, businesses are having to borrow staff from other locations or in some cases are encouraging employees to turn off the app while at work to prevent them from being pinged.


While the loss of so many staff is not only frustrating and potentially damaging to a business, Sutton Coldfield-based HR Caddy has said that employers need to allow staff to protect themselves and self-isolate properly.


“Every employer has a legal obligation to provide a safe and secure workplace and protect the health of their staff members,” said Nicola Callaghan, Managing Director at HR Caddy.


“By attempting to mask the risk by telling staff to turn off the app they could be exposing staff members to unnecessary danger, which could find them in breach of the current health and safety rules.


“While use of the app is not a legal requirement for any member of the public, it has been designed to assist with tracing infections within communities.


“Although many people have had at least one vaccination, there is no guarantee that the jab will fully protect them and they could expose others who are unvaccinated to the virus.”


Nicola said that the lifting of many measures on 19 July and the frustration felt by many businesses was likely fuelling the desires of some companies to ask employees not to self-isolate or use the app.


“Already the Government has acted to eliminate the self-isolation rules for sectors that are critical to the nation, so businesses should first check that they aren’t exempt under these rules,” Nicola added.


Within its latest guidance, the Government says that “a limited number of named workers may be able to leave self-isolation under specific controls for the purpose of undertaking critical work only”.


This includes emergency service workers, those working in waste, water or energy management and employees involved in food production and supply.


The current rules regarding self-isolation following a ping are due to change again from 16 August, when fully vaccinated close contacts will be exempt.


Nicola said: “The rules around self-isolation continue to change, as does the general advice around COVID-19 in England and it can all be very confusing.


“Given the obligations of an employer to their workers, as well as other visitors to their business, it is important that they seek advice where they are unsure.”


HR Caddy is also advising businesses to communicate with their team about their expectations and policies regarding absences due to self-isolation to avoid confusion and conflicts.


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