We don’t want to jump on the Coronavirus scaremonger bandwagon & we appreciate that the infection figures are still low in the UK but we do think that is worth spending some time planning what you will do if the coronavirus becomes more widespread in the UK or if any of your teams are required to self-isolate / self-quarantine. What is your business contingency plan? There is no need to panic but a bit of forward planning may be a good idea.
Employers are under a duty to ensure the health and safety of all their employees and to provide a safe place and system of work. Employees are also under a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that they do not endanger themselves or anyone who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work.
Based on the World Health Organization’s declaration that this is a public health emergency of international concern, the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the UK from low to moderate. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
The WHO have published a list of myth busters which is informative (and in places a little amusing!) https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters
Latest Public Health Advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-information-for-the-public
NHS Advice can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Things to consider
Under what circumstances will you decide employees should not come to work?
How will you communicate these “rules” to them?
- Are you aware of where your staff have travelled to recently? Employees should read guidance about whether they are required to self-quarantine based on their situation
- What about if they show signs of illness that match Coronavirus symptoms but it does not immediately appear that they will have been in contact with any affected people or affected regions of the world? Yes, it is probably just a cold! What is going to be your policy on this? Consider the shoe shop in Cheshire which had to close whilst all the staff were tested only to find out no one had it – perhaps better to be cautious with one or two employees than risk closure?
people can work from home how will you manage this
- IT & resources – do you need to have contingency plans in place with people taking laptops home “just in case”?
- What work can be done
- Data security
- What will you do regarding pay if you require people not to come into the workplace but they cannot carry out their work at home? There is no statutory right to pay if you are not sick but cannot do your job but ACAS guidance suggests it is best practice to pay employees if the business is requiring them to stay at home.
General hygiene principles at work
- now would be a good time to remind everyone about basic hygiene – handwashing and keeping work areas clean for example
- ask your cleaners to ensure that all surfaces such as door handles, desks and phones are being thoroughly cleaned regularly
- you don’t need to supply face masks & hand gel to staff sat in your premises
Work related travel
If you have employees who are due to travel for work are you keeping up to date with restrictions and health advisory notices?
- Could alternative plans be made in case travel restrictions expand?
- Limit all non-essential travel
- Within the UK – are there any sensible precautions you might put in place particularly if your employees are working on client sites, peoples’ homes, using public transport, meeting large numbers of people at public meetings or in places where they may be more likely to be exposed to possible risks? At the moment there are minimal risks as we understand it but it is worth considering what you might need to do if the virus becomes more widespread in the UK and your employees are going to places where you are less in control of who they are interacting with.
Communication – discuss with all employees what they need to report to you in terms of symptoms or possible exposure to the virus – remember it is not just where they have travelled but also where the people they have been in contact with have travelled
What to do if employees are concerned about coming to work
- Listen to their concerns and be sympathetic – pay particular attention to concerns of employees who have health concerns that place them in a more vulnerable position or if they are parents or carers for others who may be more vulnerable to infection
- You do not have to agree to them staying at home if there is no valid reason to do so
- Consider if they can take unpaid time off or use holiday – you do not have to agree to this or offer it but it may be preferable to having a panicky employee at work who does not want to be there!
- If there is no valid reason / no likely risk but they do not wish to attend work then you are not obliged to pay them and you can require them to come to work
What to do if an employee is off sick and is being tested for coronavirus
- Your normal sickness absence procedures and pay rules apply – nothing changes just because this is a media worthy situation!
- You should communicate with all other employees / customers / suppliers they may have come into contact with ASAP and implement whatever measures you have decided on regarding self-quarantining
We hope this is helpful and if you want to discuss anything further get in touch.