This toolkit provides step-by-step guidance for managing the coronavirus (COVID-19). It provides links to key information and templates on the website. This 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 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, this includes not putting them in high-risk situations, expecting them to travel to certain outbreak areas, where they could become infected by the virus.

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 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 and to feed into any preparedness planning.

  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, but now would be a good time to review them and buy in any extra resources you might need. Your Emergency Management topic is full of useful advice and templates.

  4. Review your HR policies. Clarify what should happen if someone shows symptoms of the virus and also if they have been exposed to it but are showing no symptoms. Be mindful that setting overly harsh policies in terms of time off without pay or sick pay may result in employees not reporting travel to high-risk areas, or coming into work when it would be more advisable that they stay at home. This feature on Eight essential coronavirus Q&As can help.

  5. Keep communicating. Constant communication with your employees is critical at times of change and will maintain morale. 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.

  6. Review work processes and see if any can be adapted to better safeguard staff, eg using more online tools and remote working, where possible.

  7. 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.

  8. Consider what precautions can be implemented for staff who can’t work from home. Increase the distance between employees and the public or even erect screens.

  9. Be prepared to act quickly to deal with employees who may have been exposed to the virus to help contain the virus.

  10. Consider whether the Government’s Furlough and Job Retention Scheme may be an appropriate measure throughout the pandemic.Furlough and the Job Retention Scheme QAs

Useful Q&As

  • Reporting COVID-19 exposure to HSE Q: Do I need to report exposure of COVID-19 to my employees under RIDDOR?

  • Coronavirus: the Government's furlough scheme Q: I may have to lay off a significant number of my staff as a result of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus. I understand financial help is available from the Government. Can you summarise the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention (“Furlough”) Scheme?

  • COVID-19 COSHH assessment Q: Do I need to create a COVID-19 COSHH assessment?

  • COVID-19: what happens to DGSA exams? Q: My DGSA certificate expires in August 2020 and I have some drivers whose ADR qualification expires in the coming months. Because of the COVID-19 virus I may be self-isolating, or the exams might not run, so I am worried that I won’t be able to sit my exams. What can I do?

  • Transporting coronavirus specimens under ADR Q: How do I transport Specimens of Coronavirus (COVID-19) to ensure it complies with the dangerous goods regulations?

  • Transporting hand sanitisers — are these dangerous goods? Q: As a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, there is an increase in the use of alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Does the hand gel count as dangerous goods? If so, do my drivers need to be trained? And how should it be packaged?

Last reviewed 14 May 2020