This year the news has been full of the latest details around the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and whilst the virus hasn’t created an emergency in the UK yet, it’s important that employers are prepared to deal with the situation if it should emerge.
At citrus, we are keeping on top of the situation, and have put together some guidance for you, based on what we know now.
Where can you find the latest advice and information on the Coronavirus?
Due to the infectious nature of the Coronavirus, the statistics surrounding the virus are changing rapidly.
Therefore, we recommend that you keep up to date with the latest information on the Governments website here as this is updated on the daily with the most accurate data.
What should I do if my employees are travelling to the affected areas?
You should not insist that an employee travels to any of the affected areas in China or Asia for work-related purposes and advise employees to carefully consider travel to such areas for both work and holiday purposes.
Understandably, sometimes not travelling isn’t possible and if you do have an employee who needs to travel to any of these areas, you should:
- Get as much information from them as early as possible, before they return to work, to give you time to consider if you need to ask them not to come in.
- Evaluate if this employee can sensibly work from home, and what technology you will need to put in place to enable this.
What are my legal responsibilities as an employer?
As an employer, you have a duty to ensure the health and safety of all your employees and to provide a safe place and system of work. Employees are also under a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that they do not endanger themselves or anyone who may be affected by their actions at work.
In view of this, it may be appropriate for you to consider conducting a risk assessment to determine the likelihood and consequences of any employees being exposed to Coronavirus. The level of risk will vary depending on factors such as travel and the type of work, and the potential for close contact with infected individuals.
Can an employee refuse to attend work because of concerns about contracting the virus?
Not unless there is a good reason for their concerns. If one of your employees simply has general concerns about the presence of the virus in the UK, then they should be attending work and disciplinary action should be considered if they fail to do so.
However, you may want to think about a flexible approach for the duration of the outbreak, which might mean allowing concerned employees to work from home if this is possible.
Can I require an employee to remain at home if I suspect they may have symptoms of the virus?
If an employee is displaying symptoms associated with Coronavirus it would be reasonable to ask them not to attend work and to seek medical advice.
Or if you have an employee who has travelled to an affected area or been in contact with someone who has, and you decide they pose a health and safety thread to other employee or customer, then you could choose to suspend them as a precaution, but they will be entitled to full pay provided that they are otherwise available and ready to work.
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Find out how we can help you save time and money on your HR admin, and give you up to date advice on all employment issues by contacting us at info@citrusHR.com or giving us a call on 0333 444 0165 to find out more about how we can help your business with friendly, expert HR support.
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