Coronavirus: How to manage workforces who can’t work from home
Much of the advice for business right now is how to manage your workforce as they start to work from home. This isn’t the case for those who are deemed as ‘key workers’ who are still expected to keep essential parts of society moving as normal. This also extends to anyone still working who can’t do so from home, such as those providing takeaway and delivery services across the country.
We’ve been asked for advice from employers covering these areas on how to manage working arrangements during the coronavirus outbreak, and we wanted to extend this to everyone who may be interested. In partnership with our Medical partner Doctor Care Anywhere, we’re able to provide this professional medical advice which might be getting lost in the rest of the noise.
It’s worth remembering that much of what is written here is a worst-case scenario. We are passing on professional medical advice which we have been asked for from multiple people and hope it clears up any questions you might have.
Article correct at date of posting: 23/03/2020
Who are classed as ‘key workers’?
The UK government has classed the following as ‘key workers’ in the UK:
- Frontline medical staff – doctors and nurses
- Some teachers and social workers
- Workers in key public services
- Government workers crucial to essential public services
- Food production processing, distribution, sale and delivery staff
- Police, armed forces personnel, firefighters, and prison staff
- Essential air, water, road and rail transport staff
- Utilities, communication, and financial services staff
- Postal workers and waste disposal workers
They're all still asked to attend work as normal and our gratitude goes out to those who are dedicating themselves to help us all at this time.
How do I protect my employees who have to work from coronavirus?
Still coming into work means the possibility of getting coronavirus is higher than if those employees were able to stay at home. To ensure protection from coronavirus and to stop it spreading across your workforce, we recommend you and your team continue to practise good personal hygiene.
This includes washing hands, using and disposing of tissues quickly, and keeping a distance from others. Where possible, ensure your workplaces have enough hand sanitiser, soap, sanitiser wipes for desks and computers, and increase the frequency of your cleaning. Washing hands regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to stop the spread of germs.
It’s important to take any concerns around the health of your employees seriously. If an employee feels unwell, even to a minor degree, it’s best to send them home and encourage them to seek advice from their local health authority for more detailed guidance.
What should I do if an employee has coronavirus symptoms at work?
It’s possible someone may have coronavirus and not start displaying symptoms until they’re in the workplace.
If they become unwell you should instruct them to go to an isolated room on their own, open a window if possible and instruct others not to enter.
While in the room, either the employee or you – depending on how ill they are – should call 111 or 999 in an emergency. They should also stay in the room alone while being told what to do or while waiting for emergency assistance.
It’s important that the employee displaying symptoms avoids touching people, surfaces and objects. They should also cover their mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in a bag or pocket then throw the tissue in the bin. This should also be a bin dedicated to this specific reason.
If they need to use the bathroom while waiting for medical assistance, they should use one which is closed off after use until it’s properly cleaned.
What should I do if an employee tests positive for coronavirus at work?
If an employee tests positive for coronavirus at work, you should find the following members of staff:
- Any employee in close face-to-face or touching contact
- Any employee talking with or being coughed on for any length of time while the employee was symptomatic
- Anyone who has cleaned up any bodily fluids
- Close friendship groups or workgroups
These employees should not be immediately identified as having coronavirus but it’s important that you advise them to do the following:
- Self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case
- Call NHS 111 and follow the Home Isolation Advice Sheet which you can find here
You may also wish to advise them on what they can expect:
- If they develop new symptoms while in isolation they should contact NHS 111 again
- If they become unwell with a cough, fever or shortness of breath they will be tested for coronavirus
- If they’re unwell at any time while in isolation and they test positive for coronavirus they will be treated for the infection professionally
Staff who haven’t had close contact with the original confirmed case don’t need to take any precautions and can continue to attend work. This will be advised by your local Health Protection Team who will contact your workplace after your employee contacts NHS 111.
Do employees need to show a fit note/sick note for self-isolation from coronavirus?
If an employee has been told to self-isolate, they are not required to give a fit note/sick as is usually needed.
Public Health England or your local Health Protection Team will be in contact with both you and your employee to agree on what evidence of self-isolation is required.
What do I tell employees who think they’ve been in contact with someone who has coronavirus outside work?
It’s possible that your employees will have been in contact with friends, partners and relatives who they think might have coronavirus. Until it’s confirmed that these people have coronavirus then neither your employees or your workplace need to take immediate action.
If they’re strongly suspicious that they’ve been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus outside work, they should self-isolate for 7 days as per the government's instructions. If symptoms worsen they should call NHS 111 and await instruction. If the NHS advises them that they’re fine to carry on as usual, they should be allowed to work.
Local Health Protection Teams are contacting all close contacts of cases, so it’s likely those employees will be contacted ahead of them needing to call NHS 111.