An Employer’s Guide To Coronavirus: Health & Safety, Employment Law and Food Safety
The UK Government has declared a Coronavirus a ‘serious and imminent threat’ to public health as its announced a new fight to try and tackle the virus. Unfortunately, Coronavirus is showing no signs of slowing down, and as a business, you need to do everything you can to ensure your business, employees and those who come into contact with your business aren’t put at risk.
Here is what your need to know.
Health & Safety
Human to human transmission of Coronavirus is happening. It’s not known for definite how the virus spreads, however it’s generally thought to be in the same way the flu is spread. Think dirty hands, dirty surfaces and objects, respiratory droplets, sneezing, coughing and even breathing. Therefore, the highest levels of personal hygiene is essential (but shouldn’t it always be!)
It’s worth reminding your team that the most effective ways of preventing transmission of any flu-like disease include:
Catching coughs, sneezes and running noses in disposable tissues Carrying hand sanitiser with you at all times. Use after sneezing, coughing and touching dirty surfaces for example Set up hand sanitiser hubs in your workplace as well as ensuring all soap and paper towel dispensers are topped up Regularly wash hands correctly following the prescribed method. You can read more about the correct hand washing routine here Avoid necessarily touching your own mouth, face, eyes and nose Avoid people who are seemingly unwell with flu-like symptoms UPDATE 12/03: The Government’s latest advice is that if you are suffering from a cough or high temperature then you must self-isolate for 7 days. UPDATE 16/03: If you or a family member you live with start to suffer a continuous new cough or fever your whole family will need to self-isolate for 14 days. If you live alone and start to suffer with these symptoms then you must self-isolate for 7 days.
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure the health, wellbeing and safety of your employees whilst at work.
There are heightened fears around Coronavirus, with some people even choosing to self-isolate to prevent them catching the virus. If an employee is not sick but is self-quarantining they do not have a right to any pay or sick pay. However, if they have returned from a high risk area or are self-quarantining because they may have been infected then you may wish to offer paid time off or working from home to avoid them coming in and spreading it if it is later shown that they do have Coronavirus. The other alternative is to allow your employee to use their annual leave entitlement. At least this way they will be taking home a full paycheck at the end of the month.
If an employee is off sick with Coronavirus then usual sick pay and company sick pay policies apply. The government has also announced that SSP will be given to employees on day 1 instead of day 4.
UPDATE 11/03: The Government have today announced that employers of 250 staff or less can be reimbursed for Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees for the first 14 days of sickness. This has been put in place as a temporary measure to alleviate the stresses businesses are facing during the Coronavirus crisis.
If you feel that you need to send an employee home due to Coronovirus fears but they are otherwise fit to work, then you must do this with full pay.
If an employee is refusing to attend work because they are worried about catching Coronavirus then this should be handled with the usual absence management procedures. This may result in potential disciplinary action, but dismissal may be too harsh depending on the circumstances. Again, you can offer unpaid leave, allow the employee to work from home or annual leave can be offered.
So far, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through food. The virus however is heat sensitive so additional precautions such as ensuring hot water and soap is used to wash hands as well as ensuring food is thoroughly cooked is recommended.
As a food business, we recommend that you:
Review the country of origin of all raw materials, it may be some items are restricted due to travel lockdowns Ensure that the 3rd party accreditations of your suppliers is up to date Be alert to food fraud. If food is short supply it creates demand, and that increases the chance of food fraud Review business travel, especially to affected areas. Postpone where possible and utilise certificates of analysis until normal business resumes Ensure a thorough return to work processes for all staff following illness and holidays – regardless of destination Avoid cross contamination (as always) and ensure food is thoroughly cooked through