Coronavirus - updated advice for employers
What has changed since our previous advice? Here in Kent, in short not much!
In continuing to promote essential hygiene, employers should:
- Remind staff to regularly wash hands with hot water and soap
- Provide hand sanitiser and tissues where possible
- Review staff travel plans and see if alternatives are available such as video and phone conferencing and skype for meetings
- Encourage home working to avoid public transport commuting and keep meetings both internal and external, to a minimum
- Risk assessing who your staff come into contact with during their day
Managers should be aware of the symptoms of the virus and be clear on dealing with an employee who is taken ill at work as well as any reporting procedures for this particular virus. The revised advice is an unwell person ( new persistent cough and high temperature) should isolate themselves for seven days without having to call 111 but if any doubt, call for NHS advice or 999 if they are seriously ill and their life is at risk. This situation is likely to change so keep up to date.
If a member of staff is diagnosed with the virus, then the usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply. However, remember that employees might not be able to obtain a sick note, so some adaption of the usual policy may be necessary.
Previously there was no statutory right to pay someone if they have been told to self-isolate although proposals are now being legislated on this being payable at statutory levels. Employers will however want to minimise the risk that employees will come into work rather than lose pay, which could have a much greater effect on the business and other employees in the longer term. To what extent employees can work from home will depend on the industry that your business is in.
Employees are entitled to time off work to help care for someone who is dependent on them in an unexpected event such as a school closure or emergency. There is no statutory right to pay for this time and you should review existing provisions in contractual and workplace policies.
It is never too late to have a business continuity plan. If you have one update it and test it. You are only as strong as your weakest link. Check what access to secure computers your staff have if they are going to work remotely. It is easy in the panic to forget about your IT security and data protection obligations.
The Budget set out some assistance for small businesses relating to rates and an extension of sick pay and its recoupment, but times are going to be hard given estimates are that it could be late spring or early summer before the virus peaks.