Keeping you and your employees safe and well

As business owners, it is important for you to keep up-to-date and follow the advice that applies to your business to keep you and your employees safe and well. The government has published guidance to assist businesses in keeping their staff and workplaces safe during the coronavirus outbreak.

What is coronavirus and what are the risks?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It’s caused by a virus called coronavirus.

The symptoms of coronavirus are: 

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath

But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu. Visit the NHS website for more information.

What are the social distancing measures?

Reducing day-to-day contact with other people, we will reduce the spread of the infection. That is why the government has introduced three new social distancing measures from 23 March 2020:

  1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purposes
  2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
  3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

What advice is there about travelling?

All British tourists and short-stay travellers currently abroad are advised to return to the UK where commercial flight options are still available. 

You can find advice from the NHS here: coronavirus advice for travellers.
You can also find advice from the Foreign Office here: Travel advice

How is coronavirus spread?

Because it’s a new illness, we do not know exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person. Similar viruses are spread in cough droplets.

How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus:

  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell

If a person has symptoms of coronavirus however mild, the person should not leave home for 7 days from when the symptoms started. After 7 days, if the person feels better and no longer has a high temperature, the person can return to their normal routine. If the person has not had any signs of improvement and have not already sought medical advice, the person should contact NHS 111 online at 111.nhs.uk or call NHS 111. 

Use this service if:

  • you think you might have coronavirus
  • in the last 14 days you’ve been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus
  • you’ve been in close contact with someone with coronavirus

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.

Coronavirus test for essential workers

All essential workers and members of their households who are showing symptoms of coronavirus are now able to get tested. Booking the test has been made simpler via a new online system. Employers can register and refer self-isolating staff, and employees are then able to book a test directly for themselves or members of their household who are experiencing symptoms. Essential workers using the new portal can enter their details and will then receive a text or email the same day inviting them to book an appointment at one of more than 30 drive-through testing sites across the country, or to receive a home testing kit. You can view a list of essential workers. For more information and details on how employers of essential workers can register to refer employees, click here

Should my business be open or closed?

The Government has published FAQs on business closures and working from home advice to provide further guidance on which businesses should close and which businesses are not required to close. 

With the exception of some non-essential shops and public venues, businesses are not being asked to close. However, employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home. Where this is not possible, employers who have people in their offices or onsite should ensure that employees are able, where possible, to follow Public Health England guidelines on social distancing (including maintaining a 2 metre distance from others).

The government has published guidance for specific sectors and settings to assist businesses in keeping their workplaces safe and following social distancing measures.

Other sources of information and resources:

  • The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website has information on social distancing and in-work activities here, guidance on workplace safety during the coronavirus and managing risk here as well as health and safety for home workers here.
  • ACAS has compiled a comprehensive guide on homeworking with advice on meeting legal requirements as well as health and safety standards.

Free online learning platform to boost workplace skills

A new online learning platform to help boost the nation’s skills while people are staying at home has been launched by the Education Secretary. Free courses are available through The Skills Toolkit. The new platform gives people access to free, high-quality digital and numeracy courses to help build up their skills, progress in work and boost their job prospects.

The platform offers a great opportunity to learn new skills and also helps employees (particularly those who have been furloughed) to keep up their skills development while they are at home, stay productive and motivated. Courses on offer cover a range of levels, from everyday maths and tools for using email and social media more effectively at work to more advanced training. Individuals will be able to access courses helping them to create great online content developed by the University of Leeds and the Institute of Coding, to understand the Fundamentals of Digital Marketing from Google Digital Garage and to learn how to code for data analysis from the Open University. All courses are online and flexible, so people can work through them at their own pace. Find out more information here.

Supporting employees mental health

Many people are seeing significant upheaval to their normal routine and increased levels of stress and anxiety. As an employer, it’s important to remember the varying effects this can have on your employees mental health. Below you’ll find some useful resources with help and advice for supporting your employees mental wellbeing during this difficult period. You may also wish to share some of the below hints and tips with your employees.

Supporting employees at risk of domestic abuse

The order to stay at home can cause anxiety for those who are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic abuse. As an employer, you can play an important role in reassuring staff that they can still leave their home if they are experiencing domestic abuse and that there is still support available, including online support, helplines, refuges and the police. We encourage you to share this important message with staff using the information provided in the Home Office’s employer pack.