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27 January 2021
Many businesses appear to be more optimistic about the economic opportunities ahead in 2021. However, with news of a more virulent COVID-19 strain spreading internationally and a continuing impact on business travel, client meetings and office attendance, companies and HR managers must continue to be proactive, mindful and practical in relation to their workforce management. This article discusses five key areas of concern for businesses and the associated practical considerations for HR managers, general counsel and senior directors.
At the end of 2020, reports emerged of a variant or new strain of COVID-19 originating in the United Kingdom (ie, VUI202012/01), which appears to be up to 70% more transmissible than previous strains.
In practical terms, this means that COVID-19 can spread faster among groups of people and seems to need less time and contact to pass between person to person. The actual virus does not appear more deadly; however, it is more contagious.
In light of the new strain, employers should:
In response to the new strain, several countries have reintroduced travel restrictions such as banning flights from particular locations. As well as logistical challenges, there are also health risks in travelling, all of which companies should take into consideration.
Successful vaccines to immunise against COVID-19 are already being administered in the United Arab Emirates.
In addition to travel restrictions affecting some countries globally, national lockdowns have been reintroduced in some parts of the world to try to limit the spread of the new strain.
At present, the United Arab Emirates has no strict lockdown, which gives companies more discretion as to how they manage client and third-party meetings.
However, employers should consider whether to issue guidance or policy advice in relation to client and third-party meetings. These events continue to carry health and reputational risks during the current stage of the pandemic.
Many employers had to implement short-term salary reductions or introduce periods of mandatory unpaid leave in 2020 to address the challenges and trading difficulties caused by lockdowns and the global pandemic. The market outlook for 2021 appears more optimistic and hopefully such measures will be less common in the short to medium-term future.
For further information on this topic please contact Luke Tapp, Andrea Hewitt-Sims, Ruth Stephen or Michael Chattle at Pinsent Masons by telephone (+971 4 373 9700) or email (email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). The Pinsent Masons website can be accessed at www.pinsentmasons.com.
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