For Business Support visit www.businesssupport.gov.uk
For the latest medical advice, visit NHS.uk/Coronavirus.
What you need to know
- Businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible
- If someone becomes unwell in the workplace with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they should be sent home and advised to follow the advice to stay at home
- Employees should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues
- Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
- Employees will need your support to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to others
- Those who follow advice to stay at home will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day of their absence from work
- Employers should use their discretion concerning the need for medical evidence for certification for employees who are unwell. This will allow GPs to focus on their patients
- If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online, and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website
- Employees from defined vulnerable groups should be strongly advised and supported to stay at home and work from there if possible.
This guidance will assist employers, businesses and their staff in addressing coronavirus (COVID-19).
This guidance may be updated in line with the changing situation.
It’s good practice for employers to:
- Keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
- Ensure employees who are in a vulnerable group are strongly advised to follow social distancing guidance
- Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
- Make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace is potentially infected and needs to take the appropriate action
- Make sure there are places to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and encourage everyone to do so regularly
- Provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
Information about the virus
A coronavirus is a type of virus. As a group, coronaviruses are common across the world. COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus first identified in Wuhan City, China in January 2020.
The incubation period of COVID-19 is between 2 to 14 days. This means that if a person remains well 14 days after contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, they have not been infected.
Signs and symptoms of COVID-19
The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are a new, continuous cough or a high temperature.
For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild infection.
What to do if someone develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) on site
If anyone becomes unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature in the business or workplace they should be sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance.
If they need clinical advice, they should go online to NHS 111 or call 111 if they don’t have internet access. In an emergency, call 999 if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk. Do not visit the GP, pharmacy, urgent care centre or a hospital.
If a member of staff has helped someone who was taken unwell with a new, continuous cough or a high temperature, they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves. They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms consistent with coronavirus infection.
It is not necessary to close the business or workplace or send any staff home, unless government policy changes. Keep monitoring the government response page for the latest details.
How COVID-19 is spread
From what we know about other coronaviruses, spread of COVID-19 is most likely to happen when there is close contact (within 2 metres or less) with an infected person. It is likely that the risk increases the longer someone has close contact with an infected person.
Respiratory secretions produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes containing the virus are most likely to be the main means of transmission.
There are 2 main routes by which people can spread COVID-19:
- Infection can be spread to people who are nearby (within 2 metres) or possibly could be inhaled into the lungs.
- It is also possible that someone may become infected by touching a surface, object or the hand of an infected person that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes (such as touching door knob or shaking hands then touching own face)
There is currently little evidence that people who are without symptoms are infectious to others.
Preventing spread of infection
Businesses and employers can help reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) by reminding everyone of the public health advice. Posters, leaflets and other materials are available. An example poster is attached at the bottom of this webpage.
Employees and customers should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently than normal.
Frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products.
Absence from Work
Those who follow advice to stay at home and who cannot work as a result will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP), even if they are not themselves sick.
Employers should use their discretion and respect the medical need to self-isolate in making decisions about sick pay.
Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay, including those earning less than an average of £118 per week, some of those working in the gig economy, or self-employed people, is able to claim Universal Credit and or contributory Employment and Support Allowance.
For those on a low income and already claiming Universal Credit, it is designed to automatically adjust depending on people’s earnings or other income.
By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, employers may use their discretion around the need for medical evidence if an employee is staying at home.
It is strongly suggested that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home either as they are unwell themselves, or live with someone who is, in accordance with the public health advice issued by the government.
Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations related to coronavirus (COVID-19). For example:
- If they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
- To help their child or another dependant if they’re sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital
There’s no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.
ACAS has more information on coronavirus and can help with specific queries by phone.