COVID-19 Coronvirus Update For Employees & Employers

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) information FOR EMPLOYEES.

Last updated 12th March 2020 at 1pm

Corona Virus is now widespread in the UK with over 590 recorded cases as of today (12 March).  It is expected that cases will peak over the next few weeks.  Currently, the Government is continuing to advise on the limitation of the spread of the virus and is not yet recommending that people avoid carrying on normal life or that events and gatherings are cancelled.  The World Health Organisation (WHO) this week declared the virus a ‘pandemic’ which essentially means there is an outbreak of a new pathogen that spreads easily across the globe.  It is estimated that there are in excess of 150,000 cases worldwide.

That being said, life has to go on.  Here we have outlined some practical advice and information based on current government and health expert advice.

Firstly, there is currently no restriction on moving around (although the advice is not to travel to Italy and the US may yet introduce restrictions).  However, usual day to day routines should remain the same for now.

Continue to follow the advice on washing hands regularly for at least 20 seconds, using hand gel and avoid touching your face.

Keep in touch with your employer and inform them as soon as you can if you think you have symptoms or have been in close proximity to someone who has the virus.  Follow your employers guidelines on how manage the containment of the virus in your workplace.  The advisable actions will depend on your work environment.

If you think you have the virus or have come into contact with someone with the virus, call 111 who will advise you on what you need to do.  This could include self isolating and/or being tested for presence of the virus.

If you have underlying health issues such as asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure, the advice is to continue to take your medication and carry on with washing your hands regularly and not touching your face.  It would be advisable to let your employer know if you have concerns that you may have a compromised immunity to the disease.

If you are sick, you should follow your employers usual absence reporting procedures.  You can self certificate your absence for up to 7 calendar days.  After this, your employer may ask you for evidence of your sickness.  Each employer will be considering what they will require given the unusual circumstances and you should follow their processes.  If you are advised to self-isolate, whether you continue to receive pay will depend on your contract of employment and your employers discretion.  You should speak to them in this case to find out what their procedure is.  The Government has recently announced that for a limited time, statutory sick pay will be available from day one of sickness, rather than waiting until the fourth consecutive day.

If your child’s school or nursery is closed and you are unable to arrange childcare, again, you should speak to your employer who will consider the options for you, depending on your type of work.  Employers are not usually obliged to pay for time you are away from work under such circumstances and you should speak with them to find out what their policy is.

CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) information FOR EMPLOYERS

Last updated 12th March 2020 at 11am

The number of UK coronavirus cases is rising day by day and you probably have several queries or concerns about how the outbreak will impact the workplace and there are high expectations on what you can do as an employer. Here are some of the answers and guidelines:

Be informed and prepared

Employers should keep up to date with the situation as it develops and refer employees who are concerned to official and medical sources such as GOV.UK and the National Health service.

Ensure Good Practice

  1. Keep employees updated on actions being taken to reduce risk of exposure in the workplace
  2. Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency details are up to date
  3. Make sure senior management know how to spot the symptoms of coronavirus
  4. Consider if any travel planned to affected areas is essential
  5. Ensure clean places to wash hands with soap and hot water regularly

Government announcement and the budget for employer’s 11th March 2020

The Government announced that SSP will be made available from day one (instead of day 4) for those affected with COVID-19, This provision will become law but no official date has been confirmed.

In the budget on 11th March, the Government announced a range of new measures around SSP. If NHS 111 or a doctor advises an employee or worker to self-isolate, they are entitled to SSP.

The budget also announced with employers with less than 250 employees can claim for COVID-19 related SSP costs (up to two weeks per employee).

The government announced it will introduce a temporary alternative to the current fit note in the coming weeks for the duration for the COVID – 19 outbreak whereby those in self insolation can obtain a notification via NHS 111 to use as evidence for absence from work.

Employee’s health, wellbeing and safety

Employers have a statutory duty of care for employee’s health and safety and to provide a safe place to work but also a strong moral responsibility to ensure employees feel safe and secure in their employment.

Here are some of the employers HR complex questions and answers:

1. One of my employees have self-isolated after returning from an affected area. Is the employee right to do this?

If your employee has returned from an affected area, you would need to check with your employee to confirm that they have been advised and see what the NHS has advised the employee. If the employee has been advised to self-isolate (stay at home) as precaution, you should pay them SSP even if they do not have any symptoms, but you will need evidence of their circumstance which will be available from NHS 111.

2. My employee has plans to travel abroad for personal reasons and I have already approved their annual leave, can I stop them from going?

Your employee can travel if there are no travel restrictions in place but you should make sure that the employee is aware of any procedures you have in place and what might happen if travel guidance to and from destination changes. You might put yourself at risk of indirect discrimination claims if you stop employees travelling to a specific location for personal reasons.

3. Do I have to accept working from home requests and what do I do if do not have the right equipment for my employees.

Your employees do not have a legal right to work from home because of the coronavirus, but instead you should ask employee why they want to work from home so you can assess where they need additional support. If the employer is considering letting your staff work from home, you will need to consider health and safety by risk assessment to ensure employees are safe to work from home and checking employees have enough equipment to allow them to.

4. The business decides to temporarily close the business, do I still need to pay my staff?

You can suggest working from home by asking employee who have work laptops, mobile phone to take them home or arranging paperwork tasks that can be done at home for employees who do not work on computers. Other situations an employer might need to close the business for a short time, unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, you will need to pay the employees for this time and it is important to talk with employees as early as possible and throughout the closure.

5. My employee is suffering from the symptoms of coronavirus. What should I do?

As an employer, you have a duty of care, so if you notice someone appears to be unwell, discuss this with them privately and that the employee have sought medical advice. The employee must follow company procedures for absence reporting in the event that they are told to stay at home. Any employee who have had contact with the employee should be made aware and advised to use NHS 111 service.

6. Some of the employees are refusing to come into work as they are worried

An employee who refuses to work is technically in breach of the terms and conditions of their contract and is not entitled to payment for their time off work. It is up to the employer to assess the situation, but employees cannot refuse to work, it is recommended a meeting to understand the concerns so the employer can make the decision.

As and when more information is released, we will update you, however, if you would like a call to discuss anything further please email clair@agilehrconsulting.com.

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