There are currently 85 cases (at the time of writing) of Coronavirus (Covid-19) in the UK. So whilst the risk of catching the virus is currently low, you can and should take steps to help protect your employees’ health, and ensure your workforce is prepared and informed.
Key recommendations from ACAS:
- Ensure managers know how to spot symptoms of the virus, refer them to NHS guidance:
- make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
- make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
- Make sure managers understand sickness reporting and sick pay and leave procedures, and know where to raise queries to
- consider if any travel planned to affected areas is essential
Employees with Coronavirus will get statutory sick pay (SSP) from their first day off work rather than the fourth as part of government plans to stem the spread of coronavirus, the prime minister has announced.
But what about precautionary self-isolation?
The government has openly stated that if NHS 111 or a doctor advises an employee or worker to self-isolate, they’re entitled to statutory sick pay, or if the employer offers contractual sick pay, it’s good practice to provide this.
This applies where an individual has been medically instructed to self-isolate. This may not always be the situation, so employers would do best to consider their position on self-directed isolation on a case by case basis, and contact their HR Advisor to discuss the facts.
Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they’re afraid of catching coronavirus. An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have, and you may be able to arrange time off as holiday or unpaid leave, but you do not have to agree to this where the employee is fit to work, free of symptoms and the workplace is safe to be in.
Though unlikely to happen, guidance has also been issued for what to do if:
- Coronavirus enters the workplace
- You have to close your premises due to Coronavirus
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace and has recently come back from an area affected by coronavirus, they should:
- get at least 2 metres (7 feet) away from other people
- go to a room or area behind a closed door, such as a sick bay or staff office
- avoid touching anything
- cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
- use a separate bathroom from others, if possible
- discuss the case with Public Health England (PHE) as necessary
Employers should still have a contingency plan in place if they need to close the workplace temporarily. They should:
- ask staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to take them home so they can work from home
- arrange paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computers
- make sure staff have a way to communicate with their colleagues if they need to work from home.
Should a business need to shut down temporarily, employees still need to be paid for this time.
As the virus continues to spread, it could pose a threat to some organisations. It’s therefore important to stay informed about the topic – but DON’T PANIC! Keep up to date with Government and public health advice, follow the guidance above, and contact The HR Experts with any further questions.