03 March 2020
COVID-19 is a strain of coronavirus which emerged in December 2019. The NHS describes the symptoms as a cough, high temperature and shortness of breath but it can also lead to serious respiratory problems and death.
The World Health Organisation has declared that coronavirus is a public health emergency of international concern. UK Chief Medical Officers have now raised the risk to the UK from low to moderate and, as of 2 March, 40 people in the UK have contracted the infection.
Laura Salmond, Partner
Instances of the disease are considerably higher in other countries including China, South Korea, Hong Kong and Italy. Those travelling from affected areas to the UK are advised by the Government to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people for up to 14 days. As a result of this, some employers, including oil giant Chevron, have been sending employees home from work as a precaution.
All employers should prepare for the potential impact of the virus on the health and safety of their employees and the effect on the business. ACAS recently issued advice for employers available here and we set out the main points below:
Send guidance to staff
Send an email to the workforce encouraging all employees to be extra-vigilant to avoid the spread of infection. This can include reminders to wash their hands regularly and dispose of used tissues immediately etc.
Avoid travel to affected areas
Consider whether planned business travel to affected areas is really necessary and follow the Foreign Commonwealth Office guidance.
Monitor cases of self-isolation / quarantine and statutory sick pay
Arrangements for remote working should be put in place where possible so that business as usual can continue during self-isolation and employees can be paid their normal salary. If employees are not symptomatic but cannot work remotely during self-isolation, they will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from day 1 where they have been given written notice, typically issued by a GP or by NHS 111. Payment of SSP will also alleviate concerns that employees could spread the virus by leaving self-isolation because they want to be paid.
Monitor and manage sickness absence
The usual statutory or contractual sick pay entitlement will apply to someone with coronavirus and absences should be managed in the normal way. However allowances may be made where, for example, an employee has difficulties providing a fit-note if they are in self-isolation.
Be mindful of potential discrimination
Ensure that no employee is singled out in any action you take because of their race or ethnicity.
Keep up to date with developments
Keep yourself and your employees up to date by viewing the Government's daily situations reports here.
Contact our Specialist Employment Team if you would like to discuss any issues raised in this blog.
Contact: Laura Salmond, Partner firstname.lastname@example.org T: 0141 221 8012