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.

Covid-19 — coronavirus

The most common symptoms of Covid-19 are high temperature (fever), a new and continuous dry cough, and/or loss or change to the sense of smell or taste. Most people will only suffer mild symptoms. However, others will be very ill and recovery can be slow and difficult. Mortality is high, particularly in those most at risk such as the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer, kidney and lung disease. Symptoms can appear in as few as two days after infection or as long as 14 days. Some people infected with Covid-19 can be “asymptomatic” but still spread the virus.

Covid-19 is a respiratory infection. The virus spreads through droplets in the breath and when coughing. It can also survive for up to 72 hours on contaminated surfaces. 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. Frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned regularly and people should not touch their faces with an unwashed hand.

People who have symptoms of infection are asked to “self-isolate” by staying at home for 10 days from when the symptoms started.

The latest Government requirements for self-isolation can be found in Stay at Home: Guidance for Households with Possible or Confirmed Coronavirus (Covid-19) Infection. The measures are supported by widespread testing and by an NHS Track and Trace system which seeks to identify those who have been in contact with infected individuals.

The government response throughout the pandemic has been to impose a series of public health restrictions designed to limit transmission of the virus. These have included both national and local lockdowns involving the closure of places where people gather, such as schools, early years settings, pubs, restaurants, sporting events and shops. A “second wave” of infection, exacerbated by more contagious variants of the virus, necessitated another national lockdown at the start of 2021 during which schools were again instructed to restrict attendance to the children of key workers and vulnerable children. Early years services were allowed to stay open.

Schools in England reopened in March as part of a “roadmap” to guide the easing of the lockdown. From 19 July Stage 4 of the plan applies, effectively relaxing most formal restrictions. The plan for ensuring safety is based on a strategy of extensive testing for infection and on the continuing success of vaccinations.

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. Early years providers should follow the latest official Department for Education guidance. Actions for early years and childcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic applies to all types of early years provision. The guidance has been updated to cover the period after 19 July Stage 4 “roadmap” relaxation of restrictions.

  2. During the pandemic early years providers must carry out risk assessments and use appropriate protective measures to keep children and staff safe. Health and safety risk assessments must consider the additional risk that the Covid-19 virus introduces.

  3. DfE recommend that the following control measures are in place in all early years settings:

    1. Ensure good hygiene for everyone (both regular handwashing and use of tissues, etc.)

    2. Maintain appropriate cleaning regimes

    3. Keep occupied spaces well ventilated

    4. Follow public health advice on testing, self-isolation and managing confirmed cases of Covid-19

  4. Early years providers must ensure that children, staff and other adults do not attend the setting if they have Covid-19 symptoms, have tested positive for the virus, or for any other reasons requiring them to stay at home due to the risk of them passing on the virus (for example, they are required to quarantine). Providers must also have systems in place to ensure that anyone is sent home if they develop symptoms while attending. Everyone should be expected to follow the government Stay at Home guidance on self-isolating. The rules should be clearly communicated to parents.

  5. Personal protective equipment (PPE) must be worn by staff caring for any unwell child with Covid-19 symptoms while they await collection where close contact is involved. Settings must ensure that suitable PPE is available and that staff follow the guidance in The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in education, childcare and children’s social care settings, including for aerosol generating procedures (AGPs).

  6. Staff should practice effective hand hygiene by washing their hands more frequently than usual or by using an appropriate alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Young children should be supervised to ensure they wash their hands more often than usual.

  7. Enhanced cleaning schedules should cover all frequently touched surfaces. Schedules should include the more frequent cleaning of toilets and hand washing areas. Schools should consult Covid-19: Cleaning in Non-healthcare Settings Outside the Home for further guidance. Cleaning in Early Years Provisions

  8. As part of their arrangements to minimise the risk of Covid-19 virus transmission, early years providers should consider the latest advice on the importance of ensuring good levels of ventilation. Areas with poor ventilation should be identified in risk assessments and actions taken to improve the flow of fresh air. Updated Advice on Ventilation During the Pandemic.

  9. Early years staff must comply with Covid-19 testing requirements and guidance. Staff with a positive test result must self-isolate in line with current Government stay-at-home guidance. Stay at home: guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection.

  10. According to the latest version of Actions for early years and childcare providers during the COVID-19 pandemic, face coverings are no longer be recommended for staff and visitors in corridors or communal areas. However, they will still be required on public transport and mask use may have to be reimposed temporarily as part of a contingency response, for example, in a local or national outbreak.

  11. Early years providers are expected to work closely with parents, staff and unions when implementing the control measures. Clear communication of policies and procedures is vital to ensure that everyone knows the rules and stays safe.

  12. Children with special needs and those with education, health and care plans may need additional support during all stages of the pandemic. Others requiring additional support will include those who may have suffered mental health issues during the pandemic, including stress and anxiety, or may have been bereaved.

  13. During the pandemic some people have been considered vulnerable to the virus because of underlying health conditions or illnesses. Some were identified by the NHS as “clinically extremely vulnerable” (CEV) and required to “shield” themselves and take additional precautions against infection. This may include staff members or some children attending an early years’ service. “Shielding” formally ended in March and new guidance will apply for Stage 4 of the 2021 lockdown easing roadmap. 19 July guidance on protecting people who are clinically extremely vulnerable from COVID-19.

  14. Early years providers should ensure that emergency planning and business contingency planning procedures are up to date. Contingency planning should cover what will happen in the event of an increase in local or national virus transmission rates and in the event of an outbreak of Covid-19 infection in the setting or community.

  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. Ofsted inspections have now resumed for registered provision, and the revised Early Years inspection handbook is effective from September 2021. Ofsted’s assurance inspections.

  18. Ofsted must be informed if there is a confirmed case of Covid-19 at a nursery, childminder business or other day care. Tell Ofsted if You Have a Covid-19 Incident at Your Childcare Business

  19. All adults in the UK have been offered a Covid-19 vaccine. Full Covid-19 vaccination (2 jabs) decreases the risk of catching the virus and reduces the severity of symptoms if the virus is contracted. At this time there are no plans to expand the vaccination programme to children under 12, except in a few cases where it is clinically recommended.

Useful letters for managing staff

Last reviewed 17 September 2021