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COVID-19: Health and Safety Guidance for Employers, Employees and Businesses

COVID-19: Health and Safety Guidance for Employers, Employees and Businesses

Overview

The UK Government has just updated its guidance for Employers, Employees and Businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19). This is aimed at assisting employers and businesses in providing advice to their staff on how to help prevent spread of COVID-19, what to do if someone has symptoms of COVID-19 in a business setting and eligibility for sick pay. Employees are also given guidance on relevant information such as statutory sick pay and absence from work.

The below is intended to be a summary only of certain sections contained within the guidance. The full guidance and most up-to-date information can be found on the Government's website here. Separate, detailed guidance is available for businesses in certain specific sectors, such as educational institutions or the healthcare industry.

For more general information on issues faced by businesses in relation to COVID-19, please read Travers Smith's firm-wide briefing, which can be accessed here.

Key Provisions


1. For Employers and Businesses

Businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible. Employees from defined vulnerable groups should be strongly advised and supported to stay at home and work from there if possible.

 

Symptoms Developed on Site

If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature in the business or workplace, the Government recommends that they are sent home immediately.

In an emergency scenario (i.e. if an employee is seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk), 999 should be dialled instead. GPs, pharmacies, urgent care centres or hospitals should not be visited. If clinical advice is needed, employees should go online to NHS 111 or call 111 if no internet access is available.

If an employee has helped someone who was taken unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, the Government has advised that they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves. They are advised to wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms consistent with coronavirus infection.

Limiting the Spread

Businesses and employers can help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by reminding everyone of the public health advice. Posters, leaflets and other materials are available on the Government's website here.

Employees and customers should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal and should frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using standard cleaning products.


Cleaning

The Government has produced separate guidance on cleaning and waste in non-clinical settings. See here for further information.

This gives further detail including what methods businesses should use to carry out regular disinfectant cleaning, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) following a possible or confirmed case of coronavirus and how long a business should be closed following a known case of coronavirus.

Handling Post or Packages

Employees should continue to follow all existing risk assessments and safe systems of working. There are currently no additional precautions needed for the handling of post or packages.



2. For Employees

Absence from work

By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of an employee's sickness. After 7 days, employers may use their discretion for the need of medical evidence if an employee is staying at home.

The Government strongly suggests that employers use their discretion for the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home either as they are unwell themselves, or live with someone who is unwell (in accordance with the public health advice issued by the Government).

If evidence is required to cover self-isolation or household isolation beyond the first 7 days of absence, then employees can obtain an isolation note from NHS 111 online or from the NHS website.

Sick Pay

Statutory Sick Pay will be paid from day 1 instead of day 4 for those affected by coronavirus. Employees who are on zero hours contracts may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, but should check with their employers if they are unsure.

If not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, employees may be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in accordance with the Government's policies on these schemes.

Staying at Home

The Government has published information on guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection here.

This provides helpful information for people with symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus, and do not require hospital treatment, who must remain at home until they are well. It also provides guidance for those living in households with someone who shows symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus.

 

Conclusion

The evolving nature of available information on coronavirus and rapid increase in cases within the UK has and put an unprecedented strain on many businesses. Employers, employees and businesses should remain vigilant and continue to consult the Government website for the most detailed and up-to-date health and safety information and guidance.

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