Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
Wednesday 11th March 2020
As the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to dominate world news, the government is revising its advice and guidance on a daily basis. This, coupled with the Budget being delivered on 11 March 2020, has led to some key changes occurring which employers will need to be aware of.
Various important guidance has already been issued in relation to COVID-19:
- ACAS has guidance for employers and employees which can be found here.
- Public Health England and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy are providing regularly updated guidance which can be can be found here.
As information on COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, this should be the touch point for the most up to date public health guidance.
STATUTORY SICK PAY
The biggest of the recent changes is to the rules regarding Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). When an employee is absent as a result of COVID-19, SSP will now be payable from day one of the absence, rather than from day four. SSP will be payable to employees who have been advised to self-isolate, even if they are not experiencing any symptoms.
Whilst this has the potential to place a large burden on businesses with staff affected by COVID-19, there is some good news for smaller businesses. The government has announced that it will reimburse payments of SSP for the first 14 days of absence resulting from COVID-19 for businesses with fewer than 250 employees.
SHOULD WE CLOSE OUR WORKPLACE?
Currently government guidance is that, even if a member of staff is confirmed as having COVID-19, closure of the workplace is not recommended.
If a case is confirmed within the workplace, the management team will be contacted by the Public Health England local Health Protection Team, who will carry out a risk assessment. Specific advice will then be given to the management team.
The advice is that people who have returned from Hubei Provence, Iran, Italy, Daegu or Cheongdo in the Republic of Korea in the last 14 days should avoid attending work and self-isolate.
People who have travelled to other areas of China or the Republic of Korea, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand or Vietnam in the last 14 days and who have symptoms should also avoid attending work and self-isolate.
WHAT IF SOMEONE BECOMES UNWELL AT WORK?
If someone becomes unwell at work and has travelled to China, Italy or other affected countries, the unwell person should be removed to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people. If possible, find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door. If a window can be opened, do so for ventilation.
The unwell person should seek help by calling 111 on their own mobile phone and follow the advice provided.
SUPPORT FOR BUSINESSES ANNOUNCED IN THE BUDGET
In addition to the help with SSP payments being offered to smaller businesses, the government has announced the following measures in the Budget aimed at supporting the economy and businesses through the effects of COVID-19:
- Business rates for shops, cinemas, restaurants and music venues in England with a rateable value below £51,000 will be suspended for a year.
- “Fiscal loosening” of £18bn to support the economy this year.
- A “temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme” for banks to offer loans of up to £2.1m to support small and medium-sized businesses.