The Government has added COVID-19 to the list of notifiable diseases to the list of notifiable causative agents under the Health Protection (Notification) Regulations 2010.

The move is primarily intended to help companies seek compensation through their insurance policies in the event of any cancellations they may have to make as a result of the spread of the virus.

It is important to note that under Schedule 3 of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH), employers must protect people from the health risks of work-related exposure to biological agents, including blood-borne viruses (BBVs), so far as is reasonably practicable (will affect specific healthcare and laboratory workers). Under COSHH, employers have a legal duty to assess the risks of infection of employees and when the risk is known, take suitable precautions to protect their health.

In addition, the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 obliges the reporting of any outbreak of notifiable diseases to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Records of any such incident will be kept, specifying dates and times, and a completed disease report form must be sent to the HSE.

The HSE itself is directing employers to for advice on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.

The guidance covers issues such as:

  • what to do if an employee or a member of the public becomes unwell and believe they have been exposed to COVID-19

  • what to do if a member of staff or the public with suspected COVID-19 has recently been in the workplace

  • what to do if a member of staff or the public with confirmed COVID-19 has recently been in the workplace

  • when individuals in the workplace have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19

  • certifying absence from work

  • advice for staff returning from travel anywhere else in the world within the last 14 days

  • cleaning offices and public spaces where there are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19

  • rubbish disposal, including tissues.

Last reviewed 6 March 2020