An Employer’s Guide To Coronavirus: Health & Safety, Employment Law and Food Safety An Employer’s Guide To Coronavirus
The UK Government has declared 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. 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. There’s still question marks over exactly how the virus spreads. However, it seems to spread in a similar way to the seasonal cold/flu. 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. You should also keep all soap and paper towel dispensers topped up Regularly wash hands correctly following the prescribed method Avoid unnecessarily touching your own mouth, face, eyes and nose Avoid people who are seemingly unwell with flu-like symptoms You must now self-isolate immediately if you: Have any symptoms of coronavirus Have tested positive Live with someone who has symptoms or who has tested positive Someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive You’re told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app You arrive in the UK from a country with a high coronavirus risk
If you have symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus, you’ll usually need to self-isolate for at least 10 days.
You’ll usually need to self-isolate for 14 days if: Someone you live with has symptoms or tested positive Someone in your support bubble has symptoms or tested positive You’ve been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace
By now, you should have completed a
risk assessment for coronavirus within the workplace. The HSE may ask to see this risk assessment if they carry out a spot check on your business. RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19
The HSE has published guidance on when and how you should report coronavirus incidents under RIDDOR (the
Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013).
RIDDOR applies to all sectors and workplaces in Great Britain. You should only make a report under RIDDOR, relating to coronavirus, when: An accident or incident at work has, or could have, led to the release or escape of coronavirus. You should report this as a “dangerous occurrence” Your staff test positive for COVID-19 as a result of workplace exposure. You should report this as a “case of disease” A worker dies as a result of occupational exposure to coronavirus Visit their website for further details on the above, along with examples.
As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure the
health, wellbeing and safety of your employees whilst at work. Employment Law
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. Employees should now receive SSP from day 1.
You can send home a member of staff who you fear may be showing signs of COVID-19. However, if they are otherwise fit to work when you send them home, you’ll need to pay them for the day.
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. New Legislation Affecting Your Business
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on employers and employees alike. Whether it’s self-isolation, safe work places or redundancies. The government has now rushed new legislation through aimed at supporting employers and employees alike.
Ahead of the new
Job Support Scheme starting on 1 st November (as the furlough scheme ends), ELAS are on hand to guide you through the details of the scheme and provide you with all the employment law advice you need to implement the scheme with staff, including the necessary agreements.
The Government introduced
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 making it an offence for an employer to knowingly allow an employee to work when they should be self-isolating. The government changed the Statutory Sick Pay entitlement period at the start of the pandemic. This allowed any self-isolation period to be eligible for it from day 1.
We can also provide you with our
bespoke redundancy packages to ensure that should you find yourself having to consider reducing your workforce, you are best placed to comply with your obligations.
One to watch that can go unnoticed by many employers are the risks of whistle blowing claims and health and safety detriment that have come with COVID-19. Examples are an employee blowing the whistle to HMRC where they believe fraudulent claims through the furlough scheme have been made and (for H&S detriment claims) refusing to come to work because they believe the work place is unsafe. It’s crucial to identify these risks and avoid dismissals, which are automatically unfair or claims of detriment which carry
high level awards in the Employment Tribunal. Food Safety
So far, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted through food. The virus, however, is heat sensitive. We recommend implementing additional precautions. These should include:
Using hot water and soap to regularly wash hands Thoroughly cook all food items As a food business, we recommend that you: Review the country of origin of all raw materials. Some items may have restrictions due to international lockdown status 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