Coronavirus – What you should do?

As the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus continues to rise, with increasing numbers in the UK and across Europe, employers are understandably wanting to understand how this may affect their business and how they should handle situations in the workplace.  Similarly, employees are keen to know how this may affect them and what should be done to protect their health and welfare.

Both the Employer and the Employee have an obligation to take reasonable action, in order to protect the health and welfare of themselves and others and we have therefore detailed below, some key consideration and information on appropriate action to be taken.

Reducing Risk:

In order to attempt to control the risk of spread, you may wish to consider making reasonable adjustments to current practices, i.e. encouraging meetings to take place via Skype rather than person, and restricting any non-essential business travel.

If there are genuine concerns surrounding those who employees may have come into contact with, or if employees have been in a location in which the virus is confirmed or suspected, the employer must try to resolve and alleviate the concerns held, and to protect the health and safety of the employees.

For anyone who has travelled to an at-risk area or has regular contact with someone that has travelled, you may wish to encourage isolation from the work place or attending any meetings for a period of time, ultimately encouraging self-isolation.

You may wish to consider requesting all employees to confirm any personal and business travel arrangements in order to try and understand and control any potential threats. If travelling and networking is an essential part of the role, you could consider offering flexible working arrangements where possible including home working, which would apply to those who may be in contact with those who travel.

For those who are unable to work from home because of the nature of the job, employees need to understand they also have a duty of care not to endanger the safety of others, and employers can refer employees to the appropriate public health advice on the issue, which encourages those at risk to remain isolation.

If employees do not want to attend work as a result of fear of catching the virus, then they can enquire about time off in the form of either holidays or unpaid leave, however you do not have to agree or accept any requests.

Pay and Leave:

If an employee is subjected to the virus then normal sick leave and pay entitlements will apply. If an employee is not sick, but you instruct them not to attend work, for example someone who is returning from China, then they should receive their normal full pay.

If an employee cannot attend work as a result of isolation or quarantine, where they have been instructed by a medical expert or an official, there is no statutory right to pay someone sick pay. However, it is encouraged for this leave of absence to be treated in accordance within normal sickness procedures and entitlements.

Encouraged Actions:

Hygiene – Encourage hands are washed and consider providing hand sanitizers throughout the workplace. Posters / signs can help remind any employees, visitors, to support reducing spread

Communications – Provide communications with any adjustments to internal practices, and for disclosures to be made surrounding travel (personal and business)

Remember: Prevention is better than cure!

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