Coronavirus is sweeping the globe, but what about your workplace?
Coronavirus cases are being declared every day with over 119,000 infected globally - and counting - since the virus began in Wuhan, central China at the end of December.
Currently there have been 4,000 deaths worldwide, but this number continues to rise, and with it comes a growing level of hysteria.
What started as mere flu, with many comparing Covid-19 to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) - which had a significantly lower number of cases and deaths reported (8,098 cases and 774 deaths) - has slowly begun gaining the attention and concern it deserves.
The UK government have said a ‘significant’ outbreak will spread at speed. So far in the UK alone, there have been 382 cases confirmed, and 6 deaths. And these numbers are expected to rise exponentially.
So, how can you protect your staff from Coronavirus?
Symptoms of Coronavirus include a cough, a high temperature and a shortness of breath. But these same symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu, so suffering with these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have the illness.
To keep the infection to a minimum within the workplace, and ultimately, to ensure the safety of your staff, there are preventative measures that can be taken…
5 ways to help keep your workforce safe:
- Hand hygiene is a must! This should be clearly communicated throughout the workplace. Putting posters up can help to emphasise the importance. NHS England have some great resources available, why not take a look
- Encourage employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness to stay at home
- Isolate employees who become unwell in the workplace, or send them home immediately
- Perform routine deep cleans including high-risk surfaces, including phones, computer keyboards, kitchen counters, door handles, desktops, and all other frequently touched surfaces
- Communicate with your employees about travelling, particularly if they intend to travel somewhere that’s high risk. Should they become unwell, it's important the staff member knows to notify their supervisor.
Currently, most people can continue to go to work. Employees only need to stay away from the workplace (self-isolate) if advised to by the 111 online coronavirus service or a medical professional.
SSP – self-isolation cost to employees
Under the current legislative framework, non-self-employed workers who have earnings of at least £118 per week may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) - currently set at £94.25 per week.
But there’s a big drawback to SSP… the first 3 days that you are off sick are NOT paid - these are known as Waiting Days.
However, with the Government keen to postpone any Coronavirus epidemic to a period in the summer when the NHS is under less pressure with normal winter flu season, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an emergency legislation to remove the 3 Waiting Days before SSP kicks in. This means SSP will be paid from day one of absence rather than day four.
In practice, this means a potential additional £40 to people who self-isolate or who need time off because they have contracted COVID-19 (however mildly). The Government hopes this will encourage people not to attempt to come to work and infect a wider pool of people just to avoid not being paid.
Coronavirus SSP entitlement
We’re waiting to hear when this new legislation will start, but here’s what we do know:
- Under normal SSP rules, employees who are off sick must wait three days before the right to SSP kicks in, and they get no pay for those three days.
- It has been announced that SSP will be paid from the first day of sickness where the absence is because of the virus.
- New laws will be made to cover this, making it a legal requirement.
- This means higher sick pay bills for employers, and two sets of SSP processes in play.
So, what happens next?
Each day, the coronavirus brings change to standard practice and etiquette in the workplace, from business interruptions to working remotely.
At Croner-i, we offer a Coronavirus toolkit, which provides step-by-step guidance for managing the coronavirus in the workplace. It also provides links to key information and templates on our website that can also help.
In addition, we have these free-to-air articles that you may also find useful:
- Coronavirus: how organisations should respond
- Guidance on managing coronavirus issues at work
- Eight essential coronavirus Q&As
- Wuhan novel coronavirus —what are the current health concerns for the UK?