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.
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 version, which first appeared in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, has been named “COVID-19”.
Symptoms include a fever, cough, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and loss of taste and smell. Many also suffer from abdominal pains, diarrhoea and vomiting. 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 2 days after infection or as long as 14 days.
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, this includes not putting them in situations where they could become infected by the virus without taking adequate control measures.
What should you do as an employer?
Review your HR policies. Following the latest government announcement, everyone who can be working from home should be, while those who cannot work from home could be thinking about going back to work if it is safe. With schools still closed, you will also have to review what to do if your employees have young children at home. This feature on Eight essential coronavirus Q&As can help with some queries. See Furlough and the Job Retention Scheme Q&As for details of government funding for employee pay. Remember, you can call the advice line if you need more specific advice.
Consider what precautions can be implemented for those staff who can’t work from home, such as retail workers and social workers. Do they need PPE? How will you enforce social distancing? Use the Coronavirus risks to staff — risk assessment template. There is also the Coronavirus essential business risk assessment — completed example.
Ensure that at least one person is responsible for keeping abreast of developments from the UK Government and the NHS. Their responsibility should extend to communicating any developments to management and the rest of the organisation.
As well as continuity planning, consider putting in place a separate pandemic recovery plan. Use the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Recovery Plan Policy as a template.
Encourage staff to stay healthy by communicating how to avoid infection through good hygiene and social distancing. Consider what initiatives you can suggest to maintain mental health and wellbeing during lockdown. See the features Managing stress during the pandemic and Employee mental health and the coronavirus.
Keep communicating. Constant communication with your employees is critical at times of change and will maintain morale, especially if they are working remotely. Review how you will contact people, and decide on the best methods of telling staff about changes that affect them. Don’t forget suppliers and other stakeholders who may be affected by your organisation’s activities. Download our editable Employee Factsheet on the coronavirus.
Review work processes and see if any can be adapted to better safeguard staff, eg using more online tools or remote working, where possible. See the Homeworkers topic for general advice including a Temporary Homeworking Policy during the coronavirus emergency and Line Managers Guide.
Review your HS policies in view of the pandemic. First aid, DSE, RIDDOR, homeworkers, risk assessments, etc will all be affected. See, for example, the changes in Reporting COVID-19 under RIDDOR and New COVID-19 resuscitation guidance published.
Consider how best to keep the organisation running efficiently in the case of an office closure or reduced staff levels. Organisations will usually have plans in place to cover such scenarios, but keep them under constant review. See How to mothball your building and Protecting empty property. Your Emergency Management topic is also full of useful advice and templates.
If your workplace is open keep cleaning schedules under review. Make sure you have a good stock of supplies and that cleaning staff are aware of any new procedures. Provide soap, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitisers for staff. See Deep cleaning the workplace in the time of coronavirus and Cleaning and COVID-19.
If you have closed down your premises, you will need a plan for how to get it up and running again, as well as how you will manage staff, hygiene and social distancing. See our Re-opening the Workplace Toolkit.
Useful feature articles
Re-opening the Workplace Toolkit
Useful news items
World Health Organization information https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
UK Government's Coronavirus (COVID-19): FAQs https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-outbreak-faqs-what-you-can-and-cant-do
UK Government's Coronavirus Action Plan https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan
UK Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/our-plan-to-rebuild-the-uk-governments-covid-19-recovery-strategy
NHS Coronavirus advice https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19
Last reviewed 24 May 2020