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 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 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, going out as little as possible. Now that schools have closed, you will also have to review what to do if your employees have young children at home, eg can you amend working patterns or give time off for dependants? 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 our advice line if you need more particular advice.
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 feature Managing stress during the pandemic.
Ensure that at least one person is responsible for keeping abreast of developments from the World Health Organization, the UK Government and the NHS. Their responsibility should extend to communicating any developments to management and the rest of the organisation.
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 at short notice, 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.
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. Your Emergency Management topic is full of useful advice and templates.
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.
Consider what precautions can be implemented for essential staff who can’t work from home, such as retail workers and social workers. Do they need PPE? Perhaps you could increase self-serving options, increase the distance between employees and the public, or even erect screens. Use the Risks to staff from coronavirus — risk assessment template. There is also the Coronavirus essential business risk assessment — completed example.
If your workplace is still 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.
Useful feature articles
Useful news items
World Health Organization information https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
UK Government's Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public
UK Government’s Stay at home guidance https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance/stay-at-home-guidance-for-people-with-confirmed-or-possible-coronavirus-covid-19-infection
UK Government's Coronavirus Action Plan https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-action-plan
NHS Coronavirus advice https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19
Last reviewed 7 April 2020