COVID-19 in the workplace: a guide for employers, businesses and workers
This information is a guide to explain what to do if there is a suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace.
An example review sheet is available to download and use.
As an employer, what is my role in preventing the spread of COVID-19?
As the restrictions have eased and businesses and sectors have reopened, there are a number of considerations for employers around the health, safety and wellbeing of their colleagues and customers.
COVID-19 is still a risk. Critical to success is prevention, which means working together to contain both single cases and outbreaks.
Businesses have responsibilities to undertaken a risk assessment and put in place controls and mitigation to make sure they are COVID-secure following the sector-specific guidance .
The opening of the economy following the COVID-19 outbreak is being supported by NHS Test and Trace . Businesses should support this by keeping a temporary record of customers and visitors for 21 days, and help NHS Test and Trace if they ask for the data.
One of my staff has coronavirus symptoms – what must they do?
As soon as an employee shows coronavirus symptoms (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste) they must go home immediately to self-isolate . The staff member should book a test immediately by visiting the NHS website or calling 119.
As well as people who have symptoms of COVID-19 themselves, this can also include people who are directly linked to someone else who has symptoms:
- Those who live in a household or are in a support bubble with someone who has symptoms
· Those who are advised to self-isolate as part of the government’s test and trace service regardless of whether or not they are showing symptoms.
What must I do if one of my staff has coronavirus symptoms?
This is what to do if there is a single case, if there are two or more cases linked to your establishment then please also refer to the later section and advice on outbreaks.
By following the governments sector-specific guidance , employers can reduce the risk of co-workers having to self-isolate if a member of staff is suspected or even in some cases if they test positive for COVID-19.
Things to do straight away
- You need to ensure that individuals who are advised to stay at home following government ‘stay at home’ guidance to stop infection spreading do not physically come to work.
- Enhanced hygiene, hand washing and cleaning regimes should take place in line with the COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings guidance.
- Employers may need to keep staff informed about suspected COVID-19 cases among their colleagues. But if possible, don’t name the individual. This should be used as a chance to remind everyone about the symptoms and make sure they are aware of the process to follow to isolate and get tested.
- Carry out a review of the information and factors in your workplace and the implementation and effectiveness of your control measures. An example review sheet is available. You might decide, going through this review, that there has been a risk of transmission. You may then consider further additional measures to limit the access or a temporary close of the premises. If this is the case please make contact with your Public Health England (Local Health Protection Team) or the council’s Environmental Health, Regulatory Services team for support and advice.
Negative test result
If the test comes back negative, the member of staff will no longer need to self-isolate. Members of their household and support bubble can also stop isolating.
Positive test result
If the test is positive, the member of staff should complete the remainder of their 10-day isolation period and their household/support bubble should complete the 14-day isolation period.
They will then be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service and should provide contact details for people they have been in close contact with in the 48-hours before they started to develop their symptoms. These details will be held in strict confidence and will only be used in compliance with data protection laws.
If a co-worker is at risk because of close contact with the positive case, then they will be notified to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace service.
You may be required to complete a RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013). Check out HSE guidance on RIDDOR reporting for more information.
How ‘close contact’ is defined
According to the Test and Trace service , close contact can refer to the following:
Having face-to-face contact with someone at a distance of less than 1 metre
- Spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of someone.
- Travelling in a car or small vehicle with someone – even if it was only for a very short amount of time.
- Sitting close to someone on a plane.
- If you work in, or have recently visited, a setting where there are other people present – such as a school, doctor’s surgery or place of work.
- Interaction between 2 people having taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, will not be considered sufficient contact, provided that there has been no other contact.
However, the wearing of personal protective (PPE) outside health and care settings will not be considered as mitigation when assessing whether a recent contact is likely to have risked transmitting the virus.
What is an outbreak
This is when more than one confirmed case is associated with your premises or business.
We are likely to have an increase in cases in the community as the restrictions have lifted, so early outbreak management and intervention is critical to contain any outbreak and minimise possible wider cases in the community.
You must report to PHE Hampshire and Isle of Wight Health Protection Team who can give support and advice to help you manage the situation.
More details are provided in the National Action Cards , which you should check before any outbreak occurs. Review the cards and download any that apply to your organisation so you are prepared in the event of an outbreak that affects you.
Media guidance in cases and outbreaks
If your businesses is affected by COVID-19 good and appropriate communication is critical to support you staff, reassure customers and the community, in addition to protecting your reputation.
If you are busy handling a difficult situation, media enquiries can add to the challenge, so the Isle of Wight Council’s communications team may be able to help if you need media advice or support as a result of COVID-19 cases or outbreaks.
PHE Hampshire and Isle of Wight Health Protection Team T: 0344 225 3861 and you must select option 2
Business Regulations and Public Protection T: 01983 823000 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Isle of Wight Council Communications Team E: email@example.com