Coronavirus Advice for Employers

As the government guidance for Coronavirus is changing frequently it is important to check for any updates.  This information is accurate as at 17 March 2020. 

What are the symptoms of COVID 19?

  • A high temperature / fever
  • A new continuous cough however mild
  • Chest pains / Shortness of breath / difficulty breathing

 

What actions should someone take if showing symptoms?

  • Seek help online UK/coronavirus to check symptoms and follow the online medical advice.
  • Do not visit your GP, hospital or Pharmacy. You do not need to call NHS 111.
  • Self-isolate for 7 days from the onset of COVID-19 symptoms, however mild.
  • Stay at home for 14 days if someone in your household has symptoms of COVID 19. e. self-isolate for 14 days from that moment.
  • Avoid contact with vulnerable people, those over 70, those with an underlying health condition, or are pregnant.

 

Care when self-isolating

  • Self-isolate in your own spare room away from others in the house if they do not have symptoms.
  • Keep self-hydrated with fluids.
  • If symptoms worsen or are no better after 7 days contact NHS 111 online
  • Only if symptoms become worse or you have no internet access should people use the NHS 111 phone service to ensure it is readily available for those who need it.

 

What if you have been in contact with someone else who has COVID 19?

  • You must self-isolate if you have been in contact with others that have a confirmed case.
  • The incubation period of COVID-19 is between 2-14 days. If a person remains well 14 days after contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, they have not been infected.

 

How to prevent it spreading?

  • Wash your hands more often (for 20 seconds).
  • Make sure you cough or sneeze into a tissue, put it in the bin and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.

 

Social distancing measures recommended by the government

  • Limit social contact where possible, including using less public transport, working at home, considering not going to pubs, restaurants, bars etc.
  • For those over 70, those with an underlying health condition, or are pregnant, they are strongly advised against these activities and to significantly limit face-to-face interaction with friends & family if possible.
  • When in public maintain a 2-meter distance.
  • Pay with contactless where possible or set cash on the counter. Avoid touching hands with anyone else.  If you do touch hands, do not touch your face, eyes or nose until you wash your hands.

 

What can we expect?

This is a new virus.  The lack of immunity in the population means COVID-19 has the potential to spread extensively.  Current data shows we are all susceptible to catching this disease, thus it is more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected.  Among those who become infected, some will exhibit no symptoms however the majority will have a mild to moderate illness similar to seasonal flu.  It is, however, also clear that a minority of people who get COVID-19 will develop complications severe enough to require hospital care most often pneumonia.  In a small proportion of these, the illness may be fatal.

COVID 19 Guidance for Employers

We recommend someone in your organisation regularly reviews the UK Government’s guidance for employers found here.

 

What to do if a member of staff or the public with confirmed COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace

  • Closure of the workplace is not required.
  • Identify people who have been in contact with them. They should self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Clean relevant areas but closure for a deep clean is not essential.

 

What are the amended rules around SSP?

  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now payable from day 1 (instead of day 4) for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice.
  • Medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, normally a ‘fit note’ is required.  We recommend that employers use discretion at during this period.
  • We are advised that in the near future, people who are self-isolating for CVOID-19 will soon be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where their employers require evidence.
  • SSP is only applicable for employees who meet the lower earnings limit currently £118 per week. This is likely to apply for casual or part time workers.  Should an employee not be eligible for SSP they may be eligible to claim Universal Credit or Contributory Employment and Support Allowance.  Local Authorities are to have access to Hardship funds to support economically vulnerable people and households.

 

Government support for businesses – reclaiming SSP

  • Small and medium sized employers (<250 employees) will be able to reclaim SSP paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.
  • This refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020 will be eligible.
  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences taking into account that employees will not need to provide a fit note and also that current systems are not designed to facilitate SSP from day 1 or employer refunds for SSP.

 

 A summary of support on Rates and Tax for business through the Coronavirus outbreak as mentioned at the 2020 Budget can be found HERE 

For employees returning from abroad?

Guidance is changing daily.  As such, if you have a query please reach out and we will do what we can help you find the latest guidance.

 

Posters to raise awareness can be downloaded from Public Health England.

Suggested steps?

  • Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact numbers are up to date.
  • Ensure managers are aware how to spot symptoms of coronavirus.
  • Ensure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap and encourage hand washing regularly.
  • Provide hand sanitiser & encourage their use.
  • Consider extra precautions for staff who may be more vulnerable (e.g. over 70, pre-existing health conditions, is pregnant).
  • Take steps to enable people to work from home if possible.

 

What is Short time working and Lay-offs?

  • Short time working is a reduction in the normal hours of work over a week or month.
  • Lay-offs are the suspension of the contract of employment when work is not available.  I.e. the contract survives but the employer does not provide the employee with work or pay.

 

Can we implement short time working or lay-offs?

  • This is an option but it will require an express term in the contract of employment, if you don’t have this, we can seek to obtain agreement through consultation with employees and seek to obtain agreement in writing. Please contact us for further guidance.

 

Can we force employees to use annual leave?

  • This can only be implemented with the agreement of employees, unless such a clause is included in the contract of employment. Please contact us for guidance.

Do you need HR advice?

Speak to our HR team today on 01606 333 677 or