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 regularly 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 version, which is believed to have originated in 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 report abdominal pains, diarrhoea and vomiting, headaches and discolouration of the fingers and toes. Some may suffer from a mild illness and recover easily, while in other cases, infection can progress to pneumonia. Reports suggest that the elderly, the obese, 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?
Most importantly, follow the Government guidance. Review work processes to see if any can be adapted to better safeguard staff, eg using more online tools or remote working. Where employees are working from home, see the Homeworkers topic for general advice including a Line Managers Guide. There is also the feature on 10 ways to optimise homeworking.
If you have staff in the workplace,review your Covid-secure procedures. How are you encouraging and enforcing social distancing? As well as our range of Covid Secure features, it is worth referring to the Coronavirus return to work risk assessment — completed example. There is also the Coronavirus essential business risk assessment — completed example and Coronavirus and risk assessing vulnerable employees.
Review your HR policies in view of the latest government advice to work from home where possible. Take into account that your employees may have young children at home. Remember, you can call the advice line if you need more specific advice.
Consider how best to keep the organisation running efficiently if the premises is still closed or you are working with reduced staff levels. Keep arrangements under constant review. See How to mothball your building and Protecting empty property. Your Emergency Management topic is full of useful advice and templates.
Review your HS policies in view of the pandemic. First aid, DSE, RIDDOR, homeworkers, lone workers, 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. The HSE has also updated its guidance on health and medical surveillance during coronavirus. See the Factsheet on managing a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 outbreak for step-by-step advice.
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.
Encourage staff to stay healthy by communicating how to avoid infection and the latest hygiene advice. 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.
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.
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, including use of kitchens and sanitary facilities. Provide soap, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitisers for staff. See Deep cleaning the workplace in the time of coronavirus and Cleaning and Covid-19.
Ventilation is being flagged as key to Covid infection management. See Safer ventilation at work — airborne transmission of the virus and Updated advice on ventilation during the pandemic
If you have closed your premises, you will need a plan for getting up and running again, when permitted, with new procedures for managing staff, hygiene and social distancing. See our Re-opening the Workplace Toolkit.
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World Health Organization information https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
UK Government's Coronavirus (Covid-19) information https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
NHS Coronavirus advice https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19
Last reviewed 18 January 2021