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Coronavirus (COVID-19) is grabbing the headlines as it spreads over the globe and more cases are diagnosed in the UK. The impact of the virus on employees and business is worrying for employers. Some guidance has been published recently which employers might find helpful.

The guidance gives more information about the virus, its signs and symptoms and how it is spread. It gives detailed advice about how to prevent the spread of infection through good hygiene. Sneezing into tissues or the crook of the arm – not hands – and regular handwashing are the key points.  If you’re an employer it would be good practice to send an email to employees reiterating this advice and asking for their cooperation at work. The guidance also covers what to do if you discover an employee is unwell. Find the guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19

ACAS has also published some guidance for employers and employees. It gives more practical advice on steps employers can take to help employees reduce the risk of transmission in the workplace. It also tackles some tricky issues such as how to approach absence and sick pay in a variety of circumstances. Find the guidance here: http://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

Public Health England has said that widespread transmission of coronavirus in the UK is now highly likely. Employers should keep up to date on information and advice on the government’s website, www.gov.uk. They publish daily updates at 2pm with the latest advice. From an employment law perspective, if employees self-isolate (but are not actually sick), whether or not on medical advice, they are probably not entitled to sick pay but some employers will want to consider paying them anyway, to help discourage those who might be infected from coming into the workplace.

Debra Lapthorne, Centre Director for Public Health England South West, has said: “Public Health England is contacting people who have had close contact with further confirmed cases of COVID-19

Caroline Dimond, Director of Public Health for Torbay Council, said: “I’d like to reassure people that the risk to the general public remains low in both Torbay and South Devon and we are working with health colleagues to do everything we can to stop the virus spreading and ensure the people of Devon and Torbay are protected.

“Good hygiene is the best prevention and there are some simple steps you can take to protect you and your family by washing your hands regularly and thoroughly and if you cough, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue.

“If you have recently been to one of the affected areas and are feeling unwell, you should go to NHS 111 online, phone NHS 111 helpline or for further advice straight away – please don’t go to your doctor or a hospital. There’s lots of advice on how people can protect themselves online at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

THE HYGIENE ADVICE IS: Wash your hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds each time with soap and water, or use hand sanitiser.
Protect yourself and others. Visit the NHS website for more information: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/#COVID19