Mar 2

Dealing with coronavirus in the workplace…..

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The UK is advising thousands of people to self-isolate to prevent the spread of coronavirus and it is important to remember that both employers and employees have a duty of care and “discretion is needed” with such an unusual situation as a coronavirus outbreak.

What should employers do to protect staff?

Employers have an obligation under UK law to take reasonable steps to protect staff health and safety. This would include:

• educating staff
• sending emails on cleanliness
• providing hand sanitisers
• cleaning communal areas.

Can employers stop staff going on holiday to high-risk regions?

No, because that could be discriminatory. An employer should direct them to government advice. An employee should realise that if they did travel there then that’s causing more problems for themselves if they have to self-isolate or risk contracting coronavirus.

What if an employee comes to work and then tests positive for coronavirus?

The UK government does not recommend closing down the workplace and Public Health England (PHE) will contact the management team to discuss the case and contact anybody who has been close to the infected person.

Staff who have had close contact with that person will be asked by PHE to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the infected person.

What do you do if someone suspected to have coronavirus has recently been in your workplace?

If there is a suspected case of coronavirus in the workplace, the government says no restrictions or special control measures are required while waiting for laboratory tests.

There is no need to close the workplace down or send other staff home at that point as most possible cases turn out to be negative.

Should staff travel be restricted?

Employers should restrict staff travel to places where there has been a coronavirus outbreak, as part of their duty of care.

If an outbreak happens while they are there, an employer has an obligation to ensure their safety and that of other staff.

Employees who have not had close contact with the person do not need to take any precautions and can continue to go to work.

Do I need to prove I’ve been in self-isolation for 14 days?

British law states that medical evidence is not required for the first seven days of sickness.

After that, the employer determines what evidence they require, if any. This does not have to be a note from your GP and employers are “strongly” suggested to use discretion, according to the government.

Employers have a responsibility to take “reasonable care” to look after their employees – which could mean allowing them to not come into work or work from home.

If you need assistance please email nicola.goodridge@goodhr.co.uk or call +44 (0)7917 878384