This toolkit provides step-by-step guidance for managing the coronavirus in the workplace. It provides links to key information and templates on the website. The information is being continually checked and updated.

Coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) explains that coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). This particular episode, which first appeared in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, has been named “COVID-19”.

Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some may suffer from a mild illness and recover easily, while in other cases, infection can progress to pneumonia. Reports suggest that the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease are the most susceptible to serious illness and death. Symptoms can appear in as few as two days after infection or as long as 14 days.

Employer duties

Employers should remember that they have a duty of care towards their employees and should take reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of their workforce, preventing them from exposing themselves to unnecessary risk. In this case, that may include not putting them in a position, for example, travel to a certain area, in which they could become infected by the virus itself.

What should you do as an employer?

  1. Encourage staff to stay healthy by communicating how to avoid infection through good hygiene and social distancing. Handwashing — more complicated than you think.

  2. Ensure that one person is responsible for keeping abreast of developments from the World Health Organization, the UK Government and the NHS.

  3. Consider how best to keep the organisation up and running in the case of an office closure or reduced staff levels. Organisations will usually have plans in place to cover such scenarios. Emergency Management.

  4. Implement a policy — should the UK face a coronavirus pandemic, the effects of the pandemic could last months. Organisations may recognise the need to have a separate pandemic recovery plan and procedure which focuses on a short-term recovery programme. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Recovery Plan Policy.

  5. Review your HR policies, being mindful that setting overly harsh policies around remuneration may result in employees not reporting travel to high-risk areas, or coming in to work when it would be more advisable that they stay at home. Pay and self-isolation.

  6. Communicate to staff regarding the organisation’s pay policies and keep up to date with the latest Government legislation regarding Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

  7. Listen to any concerns and offer reassurance for those worried about attending work and catching the virus. Although this may be different for every employer, some may decide to offer a period of paid annual leave or unpaid leave, or allow employees to work from home where possible. Homeworking and Teleworking.

  8. Review work processes and see if any can be adapted to better safeguard staff, eg using more online tools and cancelling non-essential travel. Eight essential coronavirus Q&As.

  9. Acas, the government-funded workplace experts, has published new advice on the coronavirus for employers and employees, which is being reviewed daily to the rapidly changing nature of the situation. Acas.

  10. Be prepared to act quickly to deal with employees who may have been exposed to the virus to help contain the virus in your workplace as much as possible. Sickness Absence.

  11. Look at the Government plans for financial assistance to help employers retain employees for an extended period of time, although offering no work, and avoid lay-offs. Furlough and the Job Retention Scheme

Useful Q&As

Last reviewed 6 April 2020