Although we are still in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, businesses are already feeling the effects, particularly those involved in sectors such as hospitality and visitor attractions.
The potential spread of the virus should not be cause for panic, but some sensible preparatory steps by businesses are advisable.
Read on for our 10 top tips which cover key considerations and guidance for those in management or HR roles within organisations.
- Advise staff who have been in contact with someone with coronavirus or have returned from an affected area identified by the Chief Medical Officer as high risk and are feeling unwell with a cough, difficulty breathing or fever, to stay at home and use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or call NHS 111.
- Consider your organisation’s position on sick pay – make sure you are clear about contractual obligations and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Consider what you propose to do if individuals want to self-isolate because they are concerned (as opposed to having been told to self-isolate by the NHS). For further guidance on sick pay obligations, read our employment blog post.
- Decide whether you want to prepare a policy or guidance document for staff, explaining what the company will do in the event of a significant spread of the virus.
- Current estimates are that up to a fifth of the workforce could be away from work at any one time – it would therefore be sensible to thoroughly test your business continuity plans now, complete any necessary risk assessments such as home working.
- Review communications strategies and potentially prepare employee and customer/supplier communications in advance, rather than being forced to do this in the heat of the moment. Advance communications with key customers to explain plans in place might be helpful.
- Be mindful of health and safety obligations to employees and duties to make adjustments for individuals covered by the Equality Act (for example employees with compromised immunity). We appreciate there are current shortages of hand gel of the correct standard in some areas but, if possible, provide gel dispensers around the building and soap at all handwashing facilities.
- If someone who has physically been in your organisation tests positive for the virus, guidance should be obtained from Public Health England and a risk assessment carried out. Current Government guidance states that it is not necessary to automatically close the workplace.
- Some employment contracts include lay off or short-term working provisions, permitting employees to be sent home in certain circumstances if there is a reduction in work. Whether these rights would apply in this situation will depend on the exact wording of the contracts and it is therefore sensible to know what options are available to support future planning.
- Check commercial contracts and insurance policies to assess to the extent of coverage in the event of supplier or delivery difficulties, such as the cancellation of events.
- Keep up to date with the latest guidance:
If you require any further guidance or advice on employment-related issues, or general advice regarding legal issues in relation to the coronavirus, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our Employment team.