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Coronavirus – HR Update

Cases of Wuhan novel coronavirus have been confirmed in a number of countries other than China including Japan, Thailand, Singapore, the USA, Canada and France. And now the first eight cases of the coronavirus have also now been confirmed in the UK.

Coronavirus is a type of virus that is relatively common around the world, Wuhan novel Coronavirus is different, as it is a new strain of the virus. Symptoms of Coronavirus can include a fever, a cough and difficulty breathing.

Employers should consider what they can do to protect their employees from the virus as the threat is likely to escalate. The starting point would be to introduce a contingency plan that addresses business continuity in the event that the situation does worsen. But what can you do if you have an employee with symptoms associated with the Coronavirus, they have recently traveled to China or have been in contact with an infected person? Can they be instructed not to come to work?

As an employer, you are under a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of all your employees and to provide them with a safe place to work. You are also under a duty to undertake reasonable care to ensure employees do not endanger themselves or colleagues.

In light of the serious implications for the business, and the aforementioned duties, if the Coronavirus is contracted and spread in the workplace, you are justified in instructing an employee with the symptoms associated with the Coronavirus, not to attend work, stay indoors and call NHS 111, even if symptoms are mild.

If you have an employee who has recently returned from China, or has been in contact with an infected person but doesn’t have the symptoms associated with the Coronavirus, you should check with the relevant public body on whether or not it is necessary on risk grounds to ask such employees to not attend work. In this instance, it is down to you to agree with the employee that they should work from home and return to work only if they do not develop the symptoms during the incubation period, which can be as long as 14 after exposure. You cannot insist that your employees are tested for flu.

What else can you do?

  • We recommend that you are well-versed in policies relating to sickness absence, telecommuting/homeworking, leave and confidentiality, if you are unsure speak to your Spectra HR consultant.
  • Make sure that you are sharing updates along with new developments.
  • Take measures to eradicate discrimination toward those who hail from countries where the outbreak is occurring.

If you have any concerns about how to protect your employees and manage employees suspected of being infected by the Coronavirus, please speak to one of our consultants on 0161 926 8519.

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