This guidance is based on the Public Health England(PHE) Guidance for Employers and Businesses published 25th February 2020 and the World Health Organisation(WHO)’s ‘Getting Your Workplace ready for Covid-19’ published 26th February 2020. Both organisations will regularly publish updates as the situation develops.
Background of Covid-19 (Coronavirus)
A coronavirus is a type of virus, which is common around 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 2-14 days. This means that if a person remains well 14 days after contact with someone confirmed with COVID-19, they have not been infected.
Signs & Symptoms of Coronavirus
- Difficulty in breathing
Generally, these symptoms can be more severe in those with weakened immune systems, older people and those with long term conditions such as diabetes and chronic lung diseases.
Preventing spread of infection from Covid-19
2 main routes of infection
- The infection is spread by being in close contact (within 2 metres or less) of an infected person, inhaling the respiratory droplets when they sneeze or cough
- It may be possible to be infected by touching a surface, object or hand of an infected person, that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions and then touching your own mouth, nose or eyes.
PHE believes that the virus doesn’t live on surfaces for longer than 72 hours.
Currently there is no vaccine or treatment. The following actions are recommended for individuals to prevent catching or spreading COVID-19
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (NOT YOUR HANDS), when you cough or sneeze
- Put used tissues in bin straight away
- Wash your hands with soap and water often- use hand sanitiser gel if soap & water are unavailable
- Try to avoid close contact with those that are unwell
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
Advice for Workplaces on Coronavirus
- Make sure work areas are clean and hygienic
- Surfaces (e.g. tables & desks) and objects (e.g. telephones and keyboards) to be wiped with disinfectant regularly
- Promote regular and thorough hand washing by employees, contractors, visitors and customers
- Provide sanitising gel in prominent places
- Display posters such as :
- Catch It, Bin It Kill it https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/101/resources/5016
- Combine with other communication measures, sharing this guidance and those from PHE, Briefings at meetings and intranet to promote hand washing etc.
- Make sure employees, contractors, visitors and customers have access to places to wash hands with soap and water
- Ensure tissues are available at your workplace for those that develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing of them
- Advise employees and contractors to consult with Foreign & Commonwealth Office and/or NaTHNaC (National Travel Health Network and Centre) about any overseas trips
- Any employees reporting symptoms should call 111 and not attend their GP or A&E
- For those returning from specified countries-specific advice on self-isolating and reporting is available via PHE and is regularly updated. Please follow this link what to do if you have returned in the last 14 days from specified countries or areas which is being updated on an ongoing basis
What to do if a member of staff or the public with suspected COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace
For contacts of a suspected case in the workplace, no restrictions or special control measures are required while lab test results for COVID -19 are awaited. There is no need to close the workplace or send other staff home at this point.
If the case is confirmed
Current advice is NOT to close the workplace. A local PHE team will be in touch to discuss the case, identify contacts and advise on actions and precautions to be taken. Further information can be found https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-covid-19 This will be updated regularly.
Certifying Absence from Work
By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, if any, from the employee. This does not need to be fit note (Med 3 form) issued by a GP or other doctor.
Your employee will be advised to isolate themselves and not to work in contact with other people by NHS 111 or PHE if they are a carrier of, or have been in contact with, an infectious or contagious disease, such as COVID-19.
PHE have strongly suggested that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to self-isolate due to
suspected COVID-19, in accordance with the public health advice being issued by the government. Employees who are required to self-isolate will be discouraged from attending their GP surgery and therefore will not easily obtain a MED 3 certificate.
What can you do to prepare for when a case of COVID-19 occurs at or near your workplace?
- Develop a plan of action
- Consider how to identify persons who may be at risk and support them without inviting stigma or discrimination. This could include persons who have recently travelled to an area reporting cases
- Ensure that you have put in place hygiene and cleaning plans, providing additional soap, hand sanitisers and hard surface disinfectants.
- Consider allowing more people to work from home
- Keep up to date with developments and advice from the Government across all media channels
How Gipping Occupational Health are helping to deal with Covid-19
- Will continue to provide your business with occupational health services, support and advice, adjusting our services in line with the latest Government guidance
- We can support your communication and awareness programme around covid-19
- We will continue to monitor the situation and produce advice. A senior member of our Clinical team is dedicated to monitoring the situation and providing updates as they become available
- Our clinical team continue to provide services using stringent infection control measures, to reduce potential exposure