I’m sorry I’m talking about COVID-19
14 Sept 2023
It’s back. Did it ever go away? Well the NHS COVID-19 app closed on 27 April 2023 but now with news headlines this week referencing cases soaring across the country and Health experts warning we have entered "another Covid-19 wave", we have to put this back on your agenda. Sorry.
There will obviously be an impact for employees, employers and workplaces.
HSE no longer expects every business to consider COVID-19 in their risk assessment or to have specific measures in place. However, employers may still choose to continue to cover COVID-19 in their risk assessments. There also remains a requirement to protect those who will come into contact with the virus due to their work activity.
Employees may of course be ill themselves. The current NHS guidance (with my underline) states:
“Try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people if you or your child have symptoms and either:
have a high temperature
do not feel well enough to go to work, school, childcare, or do your normal activities
You can go back to your normal activities when you feel better or do not have a high temperature.
If your child has mild symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat or mild cough, and they feel well enough, they can go to school or childcare.”
So if your employees have COVID-19 symptoms but feel well enough to attend work they generally should do. However, considering adjustments to the workplace such that you can reassure them (and others) that they can safely attend may be wise. Of course, suggesting that those who can work from home do is a useful option.
The Government guidance which has been in place since 2022 states that most people with COVID-19 will no longer be infectious to others after 5 days. If employees leave their home during the 5 days after their positive test result the following steps would reduce the chance of passing on COVID-19 to others in the workplace:
wearing a well-fitting face covering made with multiple layers or a surgical face mask
avoiding crowded places or anywhere that is enclosed or poorly ventilated
covering their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze; washing hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser after coughing, sneezing and blowing their nose and before they eat or handle food; avoiding touching their face
Then there is the issue of nurseries, schools and other settings needing to close, perhaps due to their own staff illness. We know that in unforeseen circumstances employees have the right to take unpaid dependant leave in the short term to care for their children; this will naturally have an impact on the workplace and managing workloads. Further, whilst the NHS guidance states that children with mild symptoms can go to school or childcare this may not be inline with the view of the parent. If they choose to stay at home with their child it may not technically amount to dependant leave.
So watch this space and be alert to the latest developments, Government and NHS guidance on the issue as we move firmly into Autumn and prepare for what Winter may have in store. Of course, at CG we will always keep you up to date.