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COVID-19


In these challenging times, we know businesses are working hard to ensure their employee wellbeing and business continuity. To assist you during these difficult times we have prepared this update, as you can appreciate, is an ever-changing landscape we are currently in.

Let’s start by casting our minds back to last week when the World Health Organisation characterised the current coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.

The UK’s reaction to this was to raise the risk level from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’, and move from ‘containment’ to the ‘delay’ phase and put measures in place which aim to delay any peak in the outbreak to give our emergency services extra time to prepare. As even mild symptoms can be spread, the new measures are:

  • Anyone with mild symptoms – i.e. a continuous or new cough or high temperature, must self isolate for 14 days
  • Over 70’s & those in vulnerable categories (i.e. those who are offered flu jabs by the NHS) including pregnant women, should limit social contact
  • No overseas school trips
  • Avoid pubs, clubs and restaurants
  • Regular handwashing
  • Regularly check in with elderly relatives/friends
  • Meanwhile, we continue to monitor the situation business-wise.

It continues to be an uncertain and unprecedented time – and we, like many others are not able to predict the future.

However, we have created a short summary of what we know so far.

Before we continue however, we have to make it clear this is not legal advice on your circumstances and we are not qualified for, nor do we give any medical advice. We would also like to remind you the Government publishes daily updates at 2pm with the latest stats and advice. Click here to go directly to their site:
www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public. This is an update as of 12 noon today.

There is also information for employers, which can be found here: www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19.

Below is the minimum employers should be doing to keep their employees up to date and as safe as possible at this time:

  • keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
  • make sure everyone's contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
  • consider extra precautions for staff who might be more vulnerable, for example if someone is pregnant, aged 70 or over, or has a pre-existing health condition
  • make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace shows symptoms of the virus
  • make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
  • provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
  • reconsider any travel to affected areas
  • keep up to date with the latest government coronavirus advice on GOV.UK

If an employee becomes sick at work

If someone becomes unwell at work then they should be removed to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people. If possible find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as an office. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation.

The individual who is unwell should access NHS 111 Online from their mobile for further medical guidance.

What should I do if an employee was in close contact with someone with COVID-19 while they were ill but they are not currently sick? 

The employee should be advised to monitor their health for fever, cough and shortness of breath during the 14 days after the last day they were in close contact with the sick person with COVID-19. They should not go to work or and should avoid public places for 14 days.

What to do if an employee/visitor with confirmed coronavirus has been to your workplace

Present government guidance is closure of the workplace is not currently recommended. However, dependent upon the circumstances, you may need to contact NHS 111 Online for advice on contact with other employees to assess if any measure should be put in place, i.e. self isolation, homeworking etc.

Self-Isolation and Sick Pay

In these circumstances, we suggest that employers use their discretion around a period of absence and use their own tools such as self certification and return to work forms.

Employee needing time off work to look after someone

As we begin to see other countries closing schools and nurseries, employers need to be aware of employee rights to time off to care for dependents.

Leave comes in a number of forms:

  • Time of for Dependents
  • Unpaid Leave
  • Holiday
  • Requests for working from home.

Just to remind you, this is not legal advice on your circumstances and we arenot qualified for, nor do we give any medical advice, this is what the experts are recommending following release of information from the World Health Organisation, Public Health England and the UK Government.


We have tried to come up with some helpful FAQ’s however we need to remind you that these may change on a daily basis – but this is what we know as of Tuesday 17th March 2020 at 12noon.

Q – My employee has returned from aboard, what action do I need to take?

Travel advice is changing all the time, and the most up to date information can be located from www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice. In the meantime, prior to the employee returning to work, discuss their wellbeing and if they have any symptoms, ask them to contact NHS 111 Online for medical advice.

Q – An employee keeps coughing in the office, what do I do?

If you are concerned ask them to go to a private room and contact NHS 111 Online for further guidance, they can update you from there.

Q – An employee has informed me that following, guidance from NHS 111, they are required to self-isolate, what do I pay them?

In such circumstances the employee is entitled to SSP. As the absence is connected with COVID-19, SSP applies from day 1. Unless your contract of employment states otherwise.

Q – My employees are due in but I need to send them home – should I still pay them?

If an employer chooses to send their employees home when they arrive fit and ready for work, they must continue to pay them in full.

If an employer needs to temporarily close the workplace because of COVID-19 there are some alternatives detailed below, including homeworking, lay-offs and short-time working. Prior to taking such action, please contact us for further guidance and options.

Q – My employee has requested working from home – what do I do?

In circumstances like these, we would consider it is a reasonable request and one that should be fully considered by the employer. 

You should discuss the situation with your employee and come to a sensible compromise/solution that best meets both parties’ needs, bearing in mind the latest public health advice.

Q – My employee has requested to cancel their booked holiday to take later on in the year, do I need to agree to the request?

If the business is unable to accommodate, the requested pre-booked annual leave will remain in place.

In these circumstances, employers will need to effectively manage holiday requested and requests to cancel to ensure there is not a massive back log later on in the holiday year.


As always if you have any queries regarding the content of this update, please do not hesitate in contacting us.

 

Take care and stay safe.

From the team at JFA