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Coronavirus guidance for employers

Last updated: 30th March 2020; 12.01pm

Many employers are wondering what (if anything) they should be doing to protect their employees and business from the coronavirus. We have included some guidance to support your business.

It’s important to know that some of the associated symptoms of Coronavirus can include a fever, a cough and difficulty breathing and so you should raise awareness of these across your workforce.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I minimise the risk of infection in the business?
  • Employees should ensure they are maintaining good standards of hygiene, such as regularly washing hands, using tissues and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
  • The employer could consider providing hand sanitiser across the business and ensuring that soap is available in all toilet facilities
Do employers need to carry out tests for employees with flu like symptoms?
  • Employers cannot insist that employees are tested without consent, meaning the employee must be willing to be tested.
  • If an employer is concerned that an employee may have the coronavirus and will not consent to be tested, employers should consider whether they could work from home along with explaining the risks carefully to the employee.
  • If an employee is demonstrating symptoms associated with coronavirus, an employer would be justified to ask them not to come to work until their symptoms have cleared or a medical professional has confirmed that they do not have the virus.
Do employers need to take special measures to protect employees from coronavirus?
  • Employers should check guidance from the Department of Health or the relevant public body.
  • Employers should issue clear guidance explaining what employees should do if they have recently travelled to China or a high-risk area or been in contact with someone who has.
  • Consideration should be given to home working for a period if an employee has recently returned from China or another hotspot area even if they are showing no symptoms. The employer should set a specific timeframe, the NHS recommend 14 days.
  • Employers may wish to implement an ‘infectious disease in the workplace’ policy.
Should employers require employees to wear face masks?
  • Many individuals believe wearing face masks prevents the spread of the virus. However, research has shown that the masks are not sufficient as they are worn too loose and do not have sufficient air filters. They also do not cover the eyes.
  • Whilst some employees may wish to wear a mask as a preventative measure, the employer is not required to ask or enforce employees to wear masks or provide masks.
What do I do if an employee tells me they are showing signs of the Coronavirus?
  • If they employee is at work at the time send them home immediately and tell them to ring 111, not to visit their GP or hospital.
  • Advise them to not go out of the house for 14 days.
  • If the employee is at home when they notify you tell them not to come into work or have contact with anyone, advise them to ring 111 for further advice.
Are employees entitled to sick pay during self-isolation?
  • To be eligible for sick pay an employee must be “incapable to work”. As of today, 13th March 2020, legislation has been amended to include self-isolation within the definition of “incapable to work”. This means that any employee self-isolating on Government guidance will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”). The definition does not apply to Contractual Sick Pay (“CSP”) and this will remain at the discretion of the Company.
  • There is no requirement for an employee to provide written notification of their absence in respect of self – isolation.
  • The Government is expected to introduce further legislation in the coming weeks, removing the 3 waiting days and therefore entitling employees to SSP from their first day of absence.
  • In addition, the Government is expected to enable employers to recover the cost of SSP for 14 days. This will be available to businesses who employ less than 250 people.
What is the latest Government guidance on self-isolation?
  • Anyone who has been to an affected area or who has been in contact with a confirmed infected person should self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Anyone who is displaying any symptoms of Covid-19 (high temperature or a new continuous cough) regardless of whether or not they have been in contact with an infected person or been to an affected area should self-isolate for 7 days.
  • Please see the Government website/NHS guidance for regular updates regarding self-isolation.