Coronavirus workplace advice from leading law firm as concern ramps up

Businesses have been given advice by a leading HR specialist as the UK remains on alert as coronavirus continues its march across the globe.

With a growing number of European countries now affected, it is taking its toll – not just on Far East orders but ongoing activity and business travel.

Calls for the major property show MIPIM to be postponed have even emerged.  It follows a Six Nations rugby cancellation and the postponement of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix.

Tom Martin, legal employment and HR specialist at Wilkin Chapman solicitors, said: “There is no doubt of the high alert on which we are all now being placed and for businesses this could mean severe disruption to their plans with fears obviously heightened and measures in place across the world to try and contain the spread of coronavirus.

“Generally, businesses should be making sure everyone is aware of whatever procedure(s) are being put in place, and how to spot symptoms. There is no hard and fast rule here, and responses probably will depend on how cautious employers are being. It is likely that plans may have to be reactive to the fast-changing landscape surrounding coronavirus, and that contingencies are put in place just in case of the worst.”

Mr Martin’s advice includes:

Business travel: If your business requires employees to travel abroad, where possible such travel should be restricted to affected areas on a “needs must” basis. Only necessary travel should be undertaken, particularly to China and other parts of Asia.

Personal travel: As a business you should ensure you know where your employees are going during any time off. If they are travelling to affected areas, then you should discuss whether it would be prudent for them to self-isolate themselves away from work on their return for a period of time. If they can work from home, this would make the decision easier. Ultimately, if it is the decision of the business that the employee should self-isolate, then the employee should be receiving full pay during their isolation regardless of whether they work from home (subject to the terms of their contract). If they take the decision to self-isolate themselves, against the recommendation of the company, then the usual sickness absence procedure should be applied.

BA has suspended all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect
(Image: PA)

Symptoms: Those who show symptoms of coronavirus having come back from an affected area should be encouraged to self-isolate. Such employees would be entitled to their relevant sick pay entitlements (as a minimum) during this period.

Possible closures: If it does spread further into the UK, consideration may be given to the possible closure of the workplace on a temporary basis. Where this happens, you should where possible, arrange for them to work from home, but in any event, employees should be paid.

Workplace hygiene: Staff should be reminded to maintain hygiene standards within an office or workplace and it may be that a review of cleaning services should take place.