Coronavirus: advice for workplaces
To reduce the spread and to protect vulnerable people who are at high risk if they were to be diagnosed, people in workplaces can collectively help to protect the health and well-being of everyone by following the advice and guidance from experts.
At Apex because we care about your people and your business, we have put together some advice and guidance. Hopefully our information will show you how you as the employer can support your teams and how your team members can reduce the spread amongst the workforce.
At times like these, everyone has a part to play in contributing to reducing the risk to peoples health and wellbeing and reducing the economic impact on business.
Steps to avoid or reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19)
It is good practice for employers and teams to:
- Ensure everyone is updated on how any actions to reduce the risk of exposure and spread within the workplace
- Know how to spot the symptoms of coronavirus, make sure everyone is clear on the relevant processes and procedures, such as sickness reporting, sick pay, reporting any contact with anyone outside of the workplace that has been confirmed to having the virus or returned from an affected area.
- Encourage everyone to thoroughly wash their hands frequently, use hand sanitiser and tissues when coughing and sneezing, to immediately dispose in a separate plastic bag
- When disposing any tissues or related waste, to ensure the plastic bag is tied and then put into another bin bag and dispose correctly according to guidance
- Encourage everyone to frequently wipe clean surfaces, such as kitchen areas, handrails, lift buttons, door handles etc.
- Consider any work-related travel plans whether within the UK or outside of the UK and seek the relevant public health and travel advice.
Currently the usual sick leave and pay entitlements remain the same within the workplaces. Everyone is expected to report in sick or if unable to attend work to follow the organisations policy or guidelines. If the organisation usually pays statutory sick pay (SSP), this will begin on day four of being off work sick.
On the 4th March the government announced emergency legislation would be introduced for those who receive SSP in relation to the coronavirus, they announced that employees will be entitled to being paid from day one and not day four. However, this has not been confirmed and it is unknown when this will come into force.
If your business normally pays contractual sick pay, it would be considered good practice and fair to continue this in the normal way.
Self- Isolation and Pay
If any of the team are advised by NHS 111 or a doctor to self-isolate, the government have stated that they should receive any statutory sick pay (SSP) due to them. If the organisation offers contractual sick pay it is good practice to pay as per contractual agreement.
The team members that are advised to self-isolate must tell their employer as soon as possible. They should inform their employer the reason and how long they are likely to be off for.
Your business may need to consider being flexible on requiring evidence of sickness, such as a fit note, this may not be possible for the team member to produce for 14 days if they have been advised to self-isolate. Where evidence is possible, the team could photograph the fit- note or self-certification and email it to the organisation.
You should also consider flexibility if any team members are advised to self-isolate in terms of working from home and being paid their normal pay. Where this is an option and the team member is well enough to carry out their normal duties but from home.The use of video call and telephone communication should be considered to ensure the inclusion of team member/s on company updates and work related matters.
The organisation has made the decision for their team member not to attend work
The decision for the organisation to request that their team member does not attend work will not be taken lightly. However, if the team member has been working in a different location or has been on holiday in a highly affected area, then the organisation may ask them not to attend their workplace. Where this happens the team member should get their usual pay.
Team members taking time off for dependants
Team members are entitled to reasonable time off to support or help with an unexpected event or emergency. This would also apply to any situations where the coronavirus has an effect. This would include looking after children or arranging childcare because of school/nursery closures; or to help a child or another dependent who are sick or need to go into isolation or hospital.
Team members will not be entitled to any statutory pay for this, but some organisations may want to consider pay depending on their contract type and company policy/guidelines.
The time off should be reasonable, this may be taking 2 days off initially and then if more time is required using holiday entitlement.
Team members who do not want to go to work
There are many people who worry about situations and crisis like coronavirus, the organisation should do its upmost to reassure everyone and communicate as much about the situation as possible should it escalate.
Some people may feel they do not want to go to work if they fear they may be vulnerable to catching coronavirus. Organisations should listen to any concerns or worries their team members may have. You should listen and take any concerns seriously and try to resolve them in an approachable and fair way to protect the health and well-being of team members.
In these circumstances’ organisations, where possible, should consider a more flexible approach and offer flexible working, working from home or approving holiday or unpaid leave. This may only be possible in some organisations and there is no obligation to agree with the requests.
Where there are valid reasons that requests cannot be met and full support has been given to the team member, but the team member refuses to attend work, this will be unauthorised absence and may result in disciplinary action.
Team member’s becoming ill at work
Organisations that have any team members that become ill at work and have returned recently from an affected area that has had a known outbreak of the coronavirus should isolate themselves. To do this they should be at least 2 meters (7ft) away from other team members, go to a closed room or office on their own and using their own mobile phone should call NHS 111 for advice. If they become seriously ill or their life is at risk, they should call 999 if they are able to. They should tell the operator:
- Their symptoms
- Which country or area within the UK they have returned from (more about the affected countries below)
Team members coming to work with coronavirus
The organisation should not panic at that time and there is no initial need for the workplace to close. The local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team will contact the employer to discuss the case. They will identify anyone who may have been in contact with the affected team member and carry out a risk assessment and the follow up with advice and action required or precautions to take.
Orgainsations closing the workplace
The current situation is that it is quite unlikely that an organisation will need to close workplaces. However, if in the event they need to they should have a plan in place should they do so on a temporary basis, their plan should include how they communicate to team members and other people of whom they may work with.
If an organisation knows it will have to close, it is good practice to be open and honest with the team members at the earliest opportunity. Unless stated in employment contractual agreements, their team members will need to be paid for this time.
Returning Travellers to the UK
As of 9th March 2020, the government has issued advice on travellers returning from affected areas outside of the UK;
They have published advice stating:
If any travellers returning to the UK from the following places:
- Hubei province in China
- Lockdown areas in Northern Italy
- Special care zones in South Korea
but are not showing any symptoms you should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people
If any travellers returning to the UK in the last 14 days from the following places:
- Mainland China outside of Hubei province
- Italy outside of the lockdown areas
- South Korea outside of the special care zones
- Hong Kong
Should stay indoors and avoid contact with other people if you are displaying symptoms of a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath, even if your symptoms are mild:
Use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do next.
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital