Coronavirus - Guidance for the workplace update 16 March 2020
Tamar HR have drafted this document based on current advice from Public Health England (PHE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Please note that this advice is changing day by day. The NHS link below has continual updated advice.
Corona COVID-19 – What are the symptoms?
The most common symptoms are recent onset of a new and/or continuous cough and/or a high temperature. Most people with Coronavirus (COVID-19) will have a mild infection.
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic (the sickest).
Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms; there have been reports of this occurring with Coronavirus, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
There are a number of recommended preventative actions:
• Masks are not necessarily recommended for people with no symptoms. They are deemed to be more effective for use by people coughing/sneezing.
• Clean hands with warm water and soap regularly and/or use anti-bacterial gel.
• Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue and place them in the bin immediately. It may help to make tissues available in the workplace to aid this and to ensure bins have bin bags in them, which can be tied and then disposed of.
• Don’t touch your face if your hands are not clean.
Stay at home for 7 days if you have either:
• A high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back.
• A new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly.
Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
You do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.
Testing for Coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home.
Individuals need to
• Stay at home.
• Separate themselves from other people – for example, try not to be in the same room as other people at the same time.
• Only allow people who live with you to stay.
• Stay in a well-ventilated room with a window that can be opened.
• Ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands for them, such as getting groceries, medicines or other shopping.
• Make sure they tell delivery drivers to leave items outside for collection if they order online.
• Clean toilets and bathrooms regularly.
• Think about a bathroom rota if a separate bathroom is not available, with the isolated person using the facilities last, before thoroughly cleaning the bathroom themselves.
• Use separate towels from anyone else in the household.
• Wash crockery and utensils thoroughly with soap and water; dishwashers may be used to clean crockery and cutlery.
• Stay away from your pets – if unavoidable, wash hands before and after contact.
Current advice regarding self-isolation following travel
For up to date advice about foreign travel please see the link below:
What to do if a member of staff or the public with suspected COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace
For contacts of a suspected case in the workplace, no restrictions or special control measures are required while laboratory test results for COVID-19 are awaited. In particular, there is no need to close the workplace or send other staff home at this point. Most possible cases turn out to be negative. Therefore, until the outcome of test results is known there is no action that the workplace needs to take.
What to do if a member of staff with confirmed COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace
Closure of the workplace is not recommended.
The management team of the office or workplace will be contacted by the PHE local Health Protection Team to discuss the case, identify people who have been in contact with them and advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken.
A risk assessment of each setting will be undertaken by the Health Protection Team with a lead responsible person. Advice on the management of staff and members of the public will be based on this assessment.
The Health Protection Team will also be in contact with the case directly to advise on isolation and identifying other contacts and will be in touch with any contacts of the case to provide them with appropriate advice.
When individuals in the workplace have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
If a confirmed case is identified in your workplace, the local Health Protection Team will provide the relevant staff with advice. These staff include:
• Any employee in close face-to-face or touching contact.
• Talking with or being coughed on for any length of time while the employee was symptomatic.
• Anyone who has cleaned up any bodily fluids.
• Close friendship groups or work groups.
• Any employee living in the same household as a confirmed case.
Contacts are not considered cases and if they are well, they are very unlikely to have spread the infection to others:
• Those who have had close contact will be asked to stay at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case and follow the home isolation advice sheet.
• They will be actively followed up by the Health Protection Team.
• If they develop new symptoms or their existing symptoms worsen within their 14-day observation period they should call NHS 111 for reassessment.
• If they become unwell with cough, fever or shortness of breath they will be tested for COVID-19.
• If they are unwell at any time within their 14-day observation period and they test positive for COVID-19 they will become a confirmed case and will be treated for the infection.
Staff who have not had close contact with the original confirmed case do not need to take any precautions and can continue to attend work.
What to do if an individual become unwell in workplace
If someone becomes unwell in the workplace and displays the symptoms of corona virus the unwell person should be sent home to self isolate.
At present the sick pay provision is Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or contractual sick pay if your policies offer more generous terms. Therefore, if individuals need to self-isolate, they will be paid the relevant sick pay provision. From 13th March 2020 the government announced that SSP is paid from day one including for those that are self-isolating with no symptoms.
If people can work from home you can pay as normal, unless they develop symptoms and become too poorly to do so. If this was the case, they would be required to report a change in circumstance via the absence reporting procedure as normal and their pay would revert to SSP if they weren’t able to work from home.
If individuals ask and you agree, you have the discretion to let them use holiday during isolation.
However, if you ask somebody to go home who has no symptoms e.g. because you are closing the workplace, you would need to pay them as normal.
Individuals can self-certify for 7 days. After 7 days it is for the company to determine if they require medical evidence. It does not need to be a medical certificate from the GP. Public Health England advise employers to use their discretion regarding the need to have medical evidence where an employee has been advised to self-isolate. At this stage it is unclear if 111 will provide advice in order to enhance absence over 7 days.
If individuals need time off to care for dependants
There may be some circumstances in which parents of children who are required to self-isolate will need to take time off to be with them. This would normally be classed as emergency leave for dependants. This is normally unpaid unless your policy specifies alternatively. After these other forms of leave would normally be used. However, in the circumstances you may wish to class all of this period as emergency leave for dependants.
Alternatively, if an individual has been employed for over a year and is a parent or main care giver they can take up to 18 weeks off with their children up to their 18th birthday, known as Parental Leave (limited to 4 weeks per year.) This can be taken in blocks of one week and it is unpaid. There is discretion to allow this to be taken in one day blocks. Normally 21 days’ notice is required to take this type of leave, but the company could allow less notice if this type of leave was requested by an employee.
Under these circumstances an individual might ask to take holiday to cover the period of time off. This is at the discretion of your company.
If the current situation has affected your work load and you do not have sufficient work for your employee, there are some options to consider. You may have a layoff and short time working clause in your contracts of employment and you may decide to agree a period of time off. If however you send an employee home and do not have previous arrangements in place you will be required to pay the employee full pay if they are sent home.
Where possible when considering homeworking for employees, some factors to consider include:
• Those who travel on public transport (normal commute or for work purposes).
• Those who have underlying medical health conditions.
• Reducing unnecessary travel.
• Holding skype or video calls instead of face to face meetings.
Some employees may be at higher risk if they contract Coronavirus due to pre-existing conditions. Potentially vulnerable workers include those who have: a weakened immune system (e.g. due to cancer), asthma (or lung conditions), diabetes, are pregnant or who are over 60.
If you have employees who are in a higher risk group, encourage them to notify you of their situation. The risk can then be assessed in discussion with the employee and adjustments considered to work duties.
Sick Absence Trigger Points
It is advised that absence related to Coronavirus is discounted for sickness absence purposes.
Cleaning the office
Should you have an individual that displays symptoms or is confirmed as having corona virus the following advice is provided in relation to cleaning the workplace:
• Bins – tie the bin bag and place in a second bin bag and retain. If the suspected case is confirmed to be negative you can dispose of as normal, if confirmed as positive then Public Health England will advise what to do.
• All surfaces that a potential infected person has come into contact with must be cleaned, including surfaces and objects that are visibly contaminated with bodily fluids and potentially contaminated high-contact areas e.g. toilets door, handles, light switches, telephones, till systems.
• Public areas an individual has passed through e.g. corridors which are not visibly contaminated do not need to be cleaned specially or disinfected.
This guidance will be reviewed and updated periodically as advice changes.