The World Health Organization has recently announced that the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has been upgraded to a pandemic. This has lead to widespread panic. It has also left uncertainty for how employers and employees should deal with work. Below we give a few details as to how employers should plan and respond to coronavirus, with an overarching concern giving to the safety of them and all their employees.
The coronavirus is a virus that was first identified in the Wuhan region of China in January 2020. The coronavirus is actually part of a common set of viruses seen around the world. However, it is a new strain that is causing widespread disruption. This strain is COVID-19. The self-isolation period of COVID-19 is between 2-14 days.
Here are the main three symptoms associated with coronavirus:
These symptoms have also been reported, but aren’t as common as those above:
The virus seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. After a week, shortness of breath may become apparent.
Employers have a duty of care in the workplace. There is a need to inform employees about how to stay safe, and a need to take measures in the workforce. Employees need to wash their hands more regularly and more thoroughly. Wash them with soap, for twenty seconds, all around the hand. The palm, the fingernails, the wrist and in between the fingers. Turn off the tap with a tissue, and throw that tissue in the bin. Employees should use disposable tissues. If they need to cough or sneeze they should try and use these disposable tissues, then throw that tissue in the bin. If they cannot get to a tissue in time, they should use their crack in the elbow. As an employer, make sure to clean and disinfect regularly touched objects and surfaces.
Many world governments have placed travel bans, most notably the US placing a ban on incoming travel from Europe. Any employee or partner travelling back from the areas under containment measures, most notably: the Hubei province and wider China, Iran, Daegu, Cheongdo and wider areas of the Republic of Korea and large parts of Italy. These employees should self-isolate for two weeks, and call for medical advice if necessary.
Employees who have planned holiday for the foreseeable future need to fully investigate where they are travelling and the potential risks involved. If for example, they are travelling to Italy, this has to be an absolute necessary travel plan. They should also keep up to date with government bans and delays to travelling, as these are expected in the forthcoming future.
Closure of the workplace is not recommended, but if employees can work from home, this is a possible outcome. Dependent on location, management should contact a public health body. Who in return should contact with a protection team to discuss the case and advise on precautions and measures which should be taken. A risk assessment will be taken with the outcome on advice regarding isolation, cleaning and the rest.
There is no need for closure. Recommend the employee to self-isolate and await confirmation or refutation.
Again, contact a public health body for advice. Contact if an employee has had contact with a confirmed case with:
Close face-to-face contact or touching Talking with or being coughed on Anyone who has cleaned up bodily fluids Contact with close friendship groups or workgroups Living with
There is no perceived risk increase in handling external goods.
Legally, medical evidence is not needed for the first week of illness. After this, it is up to the employee’s discretion if they require evidence from the employee. This is not a usual situation and if employers need further advice on sickness, self-isolation and absence contact the relevant government body.
As the coronavirus originated in South-East Asia, there is room for potential discrimination of these groups. Employers need to be aware of direct and indirect discrimination. Employers need to have proper discrimination and grievance procedures in place. Action must be taken swiftly.
The coronavirus is more than likely to increase in volume and spread in the forthcoming future. This means these factors and situations are also likely to increase in likelihood. Make sure to be clued up on these outcomes and act swiftly and correctly.
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