Employer guidance - Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

Employer guidance - Covid-19 (Coronavirus)

  • Date: Monday 17th February 2020
  • PDF: Download

As the Coronavirus spreads and the number of cases increases in the UK, employers need to know what action they can take to protect their employees, business and clients. Employers need to consider putting in place a flu pandemic contingency plan to address business continuity in case the situation worsens. 

In this article we can provide the following guidance to minimise the risks of the virus being contracted and spreading in the workplace.

Dealing with an employee showing coronavirus symptoms

Employers are under a duty to ensure the health and safety of all their employees and provide safe systems of work. Employees are under a duty to take reasonable care to ensure they do not endanger themselves or anyone who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work.

Due to the serious implications to an organisation of coronavirus in the workplace, employers would be justified in instructing any employee with the symptoms associated with the coronavirus not to attend work, to seek a diagnosis from a medical professional and not return to work until the symptoms have cleared.

Closing the workplace to prevent the spread of viruses

There is no requirement for employers to close their workplace during a flu pandemic or infectious disease outbreak. However, employers should regularly check guidance from the Department of Health.

Should employers take special measures to protect high risk employees?

Employees with certain underlying health conditions are at higher risk of infection (e.g. those with a weakened immune system, older workers, diabetics, those with cancer or chronic lung disease). As employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of employees, employers should consider measures to protect these employees from the risk of infection by reassigning staff from high-risk work sites or locations. Employers are also under special duties in relation to pregnant employees and disabled workers.

How should employee travel be restricted?

Many businesses require employees to travel to countries with higher concentrations of the virus. Employers should consider a ban on non-essential work travel to the highest risk areas. Ensure employees notify you of business travel in advance and agree a plan for managing the risks. Don’t forget to remind staff of the need for common sense and to inform you if they have recently returned from an area with higher levels of infection.

Look out for discrimination

Another consequence of the virus has been a rise in instances of prejudice towards individuals of Chinese heritage and family. Please remind employees that there is no place for negative or hostile comments. Managers need to address any such conduct as it arises to avoid claims of discrimination.

SSG have a range of workplace posters available for download here on how to avoid catching and spreading diseases.

Source: Gavin Parrott

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