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Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Guidance for Employers and Employees

CMS Vocational Training Hadyn Luke posted this on Tuesday 17th of March 2020 Hadyn Luke 17/03/2020

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Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Guidance for Employers and Employees

In a time of this global pandemic, it can be challenging for employers, employees and apprentices to keep up to date with their rights and responsibilities.

As the situation changes daily, we strongly advise that you consult official websites for health and employment guidelines, in particular:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19

https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm

What is Coronavirus and what are the symptoms?

Coronavirus is the name for a large group of viruses, which include Covid-19, a new disease first identified in Wuhan City, China. It is spread through close contact with others, for example if someone breathes in droplets of infected fluid from a cough; it can also be caught from contaminated objects or surfaces.

The main symptoms of Covid-19 are: a cough, difficulty breathing and a fever/high temperature. Anyone with underlying health issues such as diabetes, cancer and lung disease, or low immune systems, pregnant women and older people are more vulnerable to the symptoms.

Because it is so contagious and can be potentially life-threatening to vulnerable people, it is advised that anyone with symptoms or concerns should stay at home, self-isolate and call NHS 111 for further advice.

What should employers be aware of?

As of the time of writing, the government-funded independent public body Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service), recommends that employers keep themselves informed of regular government updates and update their workers to reduce the risk of workplace exposure.

Employers should also:

  • Provide suitable places to wash hands using soap and hot water and ensure staff do so on a regular basis; provide hand sanitiser and tissues
  • Ensure all emergency contact numbers for employees and other workers are up to date
  • Introduce measures to protect those who are pregnant, have a pre-existing medical condition or are over the age of 70
  • Help workers avoid unnecessary travel
  • Facilitate working from home where possible
  • Ensure managers are aware of symptoms of Coronavirus and are up-to-date on processes and procedures for staff who fall ill or are required to self-isolate

For more information, regularly updated, visit: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

What rights and responsibilities do employees have?

If an employee is required to self-isolate, they should receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

The government has updated its policy in light of the Coronavirus outbreak: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/287/pdfs/uksi_20200287_en.pdf

Self-isolation is required if an employee or someone in their household has Coronavirus or symptoms such as a high temperature or a new continuous cough, or if they have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111. Those returning from trips to infected areas should also self-isolate and contact NHS 111 for advice.

What happens when a workplace closes?

If a workplace is closed, employers should try to facilitate their employees working from home if possible, and pay them as usual.

If the business is closed down or staff are asked to reduce hours, employers must pay them unless it says otherwise in their contract.

Take a look at Acas information on Layoffs and short-time working.

Employers can also ask staff to take holiday while a workplace is closed but should inform themselves of the legislation around this first, such as the prior notice period.

What if an employee needs time off to care for someone?

An employer should allow time off for staff to care for another person, for example a dependent who is sick or children who are off school. At present the employer is not obliged to offer pay, but this may change with government legislation for Coronavirus.

What if an employee becomes ill at work?

The person should isolate themselves from colleagues and call NHS 111 or 999 if seriously unwell (using their own phone).

The local Public Health England (PHE) can advise on actions to take if an employee is diagnosed or falls ill at work, such as advising staff and deep cleaning.

What rights do apprentices have compared with employees?

Apprentices have exactly the same rights as employees when it comes to Coronavirus. They should be treated in the same way and supported by their managers and co-workers, both in the workplace and if they fall ill or request home working.

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