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”.

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, 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. On 19 March, the Government announced that schools and nurseries in England will close on Friday afternoon (20 March) for an indefinite period. The announcement followed similar decisions in the rest of the UK. Schools should work to ensure that closures go ahead in an orderly way and that parents are fully informed. The closure order applies to schools of all types, including private schools and sixth forms, and to nurseries.

  2. From Monday 23 March, 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.

  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. Handwashing — more complicated than you think.

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

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Ensure staff are aware of your sickness absence policies, the effective management of sickness absence is a key issue for employers. Good health among employees is necessary for continuity and stability and to ensure the smooth running of the organisation. Sickness Absence.

  10. Review work processes and 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.

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

  12. 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. Government issues COVID-19 guidance for employers.

Useful Q&As

Last reviewed 2 April 2020