Coronavirus hits the UK – do’s and don’ts
The Coronavirus is an upper-respiratory disease. The outbreak and reported cases in the UK may present UK employers with a number of employment law issues…. Read more
The Coronavirus is an upper-respiratory disease. The outbreak and reported cases in the UK may present UK employers with a number of employment law issues.
The Department of Health has issued guidelines on their website (see below) and whilst the risk to the public is described as moderate the advice should not be ignored.
Specific advice to employers
Employers must avoid discriminating against certain races or nationalities where the virus is most prevalent
- Booked annual leave
If an employee has booked annual leave where travel to an affected area had been planned but seeks a postponement of their holiday, such requests where possible should be granted, otherwise the employee may feel they have to take the holiday as planned.
If employees have been exposed to the virus or have returned from a country or region with a significant rate of infection in the last 14 days employees should be requested to refrain from attending their place of work through the suspected incubation and transmission period. If remote working is possible this should be agreed.
- Pay & management instructions
If the company’s sickness absence policy does not deal with pandemics such as the Coronavirus, and individuals have been exposed to the virus or been in an infected region, consider what payments should be made to an employee if they are required to refrain from work due to possible exposure, you may consider allowing the employee to work from home temporarily. It is important that a consistent approach to pay must be adopted.
- Management instruction
If an employee refuses to remain at home during the 14-day quarantine period, you may consider a temporary suspension on full pay if the contract of employment gives the right to suspend for this reason.
If your business travels to and from an infected region, consider suspending travel to infected regions and using alternatives such as skype or video conference.
If employees travel abroad, check the Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) advice and Coronavirus update in the specific area before employee travel.
The FCO is currently advising against all travel to Hubei Province and all non-essential to the rest of mainland China.
FCO travel advice remains under constant review to ensure the latest assessment of risk to British people.
- Where employees are travelling to an area that has confirmed cases but is not deemed as high risk, the company can continue to allow travel but should provide guidelines to their employees on hygiene and safety and ensure they understand what actions to take should they become ill.
General advice to employers
- The UK Government advice to all businesses is to keep up to date with the government’s advice and recommendations
- Should the Coronavirus take a strong hold in the UK, companies should appoint a pandemic co-ordinator who will be responsible for seeking advice, monitoring changes, identifying health risks and reporting this to senior management
- Ensure the company’s sickness absence policy is up-to-date and that Managers implement the policy consistently
What should we all do?
These are standard hygiene techniques recommended by the government and will help reduce the risk of spreading any infection!
- For at least 20 seconds wash hands with soap and water regularly, alternatively use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- If you are sick stay at home
- Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and discard your used tissue in a bin
- Use a disinfectant to clean and objects and surfaces that you touch frequently
- Although surgical masks have not been proven to safeguard against the risk of infection, they may reduce the number of times you touch your eyes, nose and mouth so could be helpful
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