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 episode, which first appeared in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, has been named “Covid-19”.

According to the NHS, the most common symptoms to watch out for are high temperature (fever), a new and continuous dry cough, and/or loss or change to the sense of smell or taste. 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.

People who have symptoms of infection and live alone are asked to “self-isolate” by staying at home for 7 days from when the symptoms started. Those who live with others and families are being asked to self-isolate as a household for 14 days from the day that the first person became ill.

People can protect themselves and others by covering their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and by frequently washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds during the day. They should use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.

In order to halt the spread of the virus, a “lockdown” has been in place throughout the UK since March, closing down places such as pubs and restaurants and obliging people to stay indoors except for activities such as food shopping and exercise. The lockdown has been eased across the UK as virus transmission rates have reduced and services are gradually reopening. This easing will differ slightly in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and according to regional risk assessments.

In England the prime minister has presented a “roadmap” for the country to recover from the pandemic which involves the phased easing of the lockdown restrictions. However, despite the easing of some restrictions, people are still asked to stay at home as much as possible and, when outside for exercise, food shopping or work, they are advised to “stay alert” and maintain a “social distance” of at least 2m from others not in the same household. Announced on 23 June and effective from 4 July in England, social distancing rules will be eased. People should remain 2m apart where possible but a "one metre plus" rule will be introduced. Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said people will be encouraged to use mitigation — such as face coverings — when within 2m of each other and "where it is possible to keep 2m apart people should". With data from Public Health England (PHE) showing that confirmed Covid-19 cases fell by a quarter in the week to 5 July, the Government decided to press on with moves to allow more businesses and facilities to reopen in the near future.

The latest Government requirements can be found in Staying alert and safe (social distancing).

Schools and early years provision were closed as part of the lockdown in March, except for a partial service to support vulnerable children and the children of key workers. Plans have been introduced as part of the lockdown easing to aim for the start of a phased re-opening.

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 in early years?

  1. Schools and nurseries should have arrangements in place to maintain support for the children of key workers and for the most vulnerable children. Key workers include not only those in the NHS, fire and ambulance services and police, but also staff such as supermarket delivery drivers. This is so that workers can carry on with their vital jobs without having to worry about who will look after their children. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans. Children who do not fall into these groups should remain at home with appropriate care. Who are the key workers whose children can still go to school?

  2. Consider whether it is appropriate to furlough any employees. For advice on how to go about this and who is eligible, see the How to guide for furlough

  3. Provisions that remain open, even at a very reduced level, should ensure that both staff and children follow previously published guidance on protecting themselves and others. Young children should be supervised to ensure they wash their hands more often than usual. They should be encouraged to “catch” coughs and sneezes in tissues. Supporting parents with helping their children to wash their hands and other self-care skills during isolation.

  4. Where nurseries are unable to look after the necessary vulnerable/key worker children (for instance, due to staff shortages), local authorities will work with DfE regional teams to ensure alternative options are available.

  5. Early years providers that are currently closed should plan ahead to be able to provide safe premises and services when they re-open. Coronavirus (Covid-19): implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings provides essential help in planning “Covid secure” facilities and in helping providers to establish effective social distancing policies.

  6. Planning guide for early years and childcare settings sets out considerations for early years providers in England who wish to reopen their services to more children as the lockdown lifts. As with primary schools a key measure to prevent the spread of the virus is dividing children into “bubbles” or small groups and keeping these groups apart along with their own dedicated staff.

  7. In England the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) staff ratios still apply. However, these are subject to temporary relaxation in accordance with the Early years foundation stage: coronavirus disapplications.

  8. Necessary staffing adjustments include modified arrangements to provide paediatric first aid as set out in Actions for early years and childcare providers during the coronavirus outbreak.

  9. Early years providers who reopen services should carry out the necessary risk assessments and redesign their workplace and work processes to support social distancing. Re-opening the Workplace Toolkit: Early Years Settings.

  10. Staff or children who are considered as extremely vulnerable or “high risk” and are subject to special “shielding arrangements” should not be required to attend premises that are open. Those staff who are considered vulnerable or “moderate risk” should be supported to work from home if possible. Guidance on shielding and protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from Covid-19 provides more information on this group of people.

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

  12. Cleanliness and good hygiene standards are important to help to prevent infection and the spread of disease in an early years provision. This is critical to avoid diseases such as E.coli, Norovirus or the spread of coughs, colds and influenza and to reduce the impact of coronavirus. Hygiene.

  13. Ensure staff are aware of the best methods of reducing the risk of spreading infectious illnesses in an early years service. Infectious illnesses.

  14. Parents and guardians should be asked not to bring their child into the service if they are unwell or are suffering from an infection. This is often referred to as an “exclusion” policy. It should be clearly communicated in leaflets and posters. Illnesses and Infections.

  15. Communicate to staff regarding the organisation’s pay policies and keep up to date with the latest government legislation regarding Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Coronavirus, self-isolation and sick pay.

  16. Ensure that you have clear absence policies and that staff are aware of them. The effective management of sickness absence is a key issue for employers, to ensure continuity and stability, and the smooth running of the organisation. Sickness Absence.

  17. Review work processes to see if any can be adapted to better safeguard staff. Make sure your Absence Management Policy and Sickness Absence Policy are fit for purpose under the present circumstances.

  18. Review work processes to see if any can be adapted to better safeguard children during the pandemic. See Covid-19: guidance on safeguarding children

  19. 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. Coronavirus in schools and early years settings.

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Last reviewed 20 July 2020