Business guide to Coronavirus

Managing new starters during COVID-19

Committed to a new team member starting during the pandemic? Here’s what you need to know about start dates, onboarding processes, working from home and more.

In times like these, hiring new team members might be the furthest thing from your mind – and rightly so. However, if you have already committed to taking on a new starter before the outbreak, you should take a few things into consideration.

For most businesses, this may only involve a few tweaks to usual processes to safely onboard a new team member. For others, changing the offer of employment may be the only practical option. 

Onboarding new starters

If you have a new member scheduled to join your team during this uncertain time, it’s a good idea to adjust your onboarding process to reflect the government’s hygiene and social distancing recommendations.

If you can, hold off on face-to-face introductions and ask employees to meet their new team member via video conferencing, for example, with Microsoft Teams, or over the phone. If you have to be on the same premises due to the nature of your work, make sure you avoid physical contact and keep a distance of 1.5 meters.

If your induction takes place remotely, consider giving your new starter a virtual tour of your workplace and take them through any processes and procedural documents via video.

It’s also important to provide clear direction on your policies relating to COVID-19, including those regarding personal leave. What symptoms should your new starter be concerned about? What should they do if they feel unwell? What happens if they haven’t accrued enough personal leave to cover an absence?

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Making alternative arrangements

If your industry allows, set up your new starter so they can work from home. Arrange for other team members to contact your new starter to help keep loneliness and isolation at bay. A virtual coffee together or quick face-to-face video chat online first thing in the morning can help your new starter feel more like they’re part of the team.

Is working from home not practical in your business? Make sure your new starter is up to date on the specific hygiene and requirements for protective equipment in your workplace to minimise the chance of contraction.

Changing the offer

At the moment, things seem to be changing by the day, and it’s likely the circumstances in which you made the offer to your new starter, have shifted significantly. Perhaps your business’ financial forecast is not looking great or the way your employees’ work has changed.

If so, postponing the start date of your new employee may be an option to relieve some of the operational pressures on your business until things are looking up again. Here, open communication is key: talk to your new starter, be transparent about the circumstances and ask if they would agree on a delayed start.

If it’s no longer feasible to take on a new hire, it’s possible to withdraw the offer of employment. This is a lot easier if the other party hasn’t yet signed a contract, as the agreement isn’t legally binding until this happens.

If they have signed a contract, you can withdraw the offer if there’s no longer a need for the position in your business – a bit like a redundancy. In this situation, it’s best to seek legal advice before you act.

Hiring new team members can be a delicate matter, even at the best of times. With a little extra planning and clear direction, you can manage the process during the pandemic, and protect both your business and your new starter.

Do you have more questions about running your business during the COVID-19 pandemic? Check out our dedicated resource hub.

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