HR you kidding me? The pingdemic edition!

You'll likely have seen in the media talk of a 'pingdemic', but it wasn't until two conversations I had recently that I realised it exemplified a HR nightmare for both employees and employers. So we've brought in my long suffering friend, ex housemate and Lightning's in house unofficial HR guru Olivia Flattery of the HR Department to give y'all some tips on how to handle this 'pingdemic'. 

The first convo i had was when a friend gleefully told me about how they were checking in to everywhere they could in the hope of being 'pinged' as it meant they got paid time off and having to self isolate. We're going to ignore the moral ambiguities of this approach and just focus on the HR. 

Now Olivia, it sounds like the company this person works for has pretty excellent staff protection when it comes to Covid related matters, that unfortunately seem to be taken advantage of here.

Chris, what a naughty employee……….I hope they don’t get ill with Covid!!!  From the employers perspective they are only obliged to pay Statutory Sick Pay so I would advise that they send a communication to staff outlining that these are extenuating circumstances and therefore a special Covid Absence Policy will be in place rather than the normal Company Policy if the reason for absence is being ‘pinged’.

On the flip side of this I have another friend who works in a bonus focused job and if they got pinged would only get SSP....getting pinged would be devastating to their income. Because of this they have deleted the NHS app and only pretend to check in to venues nowadays. We're also going to ignore the moral ambiguities of this approach and just focus on the HR advice.

Olivia this level of fear and lack of job security surely can't be good from a HR perspective. I imagine you're going to tell me it's all above board though, so I wanted to ask you a different question. MORALLY what is the least an employer should be doing in this situation if a worker has not tested positive, has no symptoms and has the capacity to work from home? 

Personally, Chris, I think it is the employers obligation (moral or otherwise) to communicate and educate their staff on getting through this period, explain how much worse the situation could be if they infected colleagues, clients, friends or family.  Although I have heard of employers encouraging staff to turn the app off.  I think we all have a part to play in getting in front of this pandemic.  Check out our Covid Hub for relevant updates/news/advice Coronavirus news - The HR Dept

That's really interesting. So to open the conversation up further, let's look at a fictional example where a company are all now full time in the office and somebody gets pinged. I've heard of some HR howlers where emails are sent out naming and shaming the 'culprits' and have seen zero processes in place for when this happens. I have also heard the opposite where companies advise someone has been pinged (anonymously) and tell everyone to check their apps and assume the risk of coming in as it *should* be safe to do so if nobody has tested positive themselves.

Unfortunately in a lot of SME’s regardless of whether the person ‘pinged’ is named or not, the company information superhighway will find a way of knowing who it is……….the employer should really sit down and put a business continuity plan in place to deal with all eventualities. A great source of pragmatic source of advice is Public Health England Covid-19 Health Behaviours - Coronavirus Resource centre (

They even have a guide helping employers to encourage staff to vaccinate, I know Chris, a whole different blog post.

Amazing advice, i'm sure that will be helpful to lots of employers reading this. Okay so lastly, we've talked about extreme examples when it comes to lack of support and too much support for employees when it comes to covid related sick pay. So, in your opinion, what is the HR happy medium to cover both employers and employees?

Personally I think we all have a role to play to put this pandemic behind us.  The employers role is to communicate (listening is part of communication FYI) and educate their staff by staying on top of the guidance.  It is difficult for employers as this is tough times for business and not only have they to juggle financial implications but also genuinely scared employees and ever changing government guidance.   Employees should also play their part, appreciate that the business has come this far through a difficult time and be conscientious in their behaviours to support the business surviving.

You heard it there folks and couldn't agree more with Olivia. Be sure to reach out to her on Linkedin if you're in need of HR consulting for your business, i couldn't recommend her highly enough.

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Thea Bardot

28th July