Coronavirus advice for employers

15/04/2020

People unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) can obtain an isolation note through a new online service. A Isolation note will provided to employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, and therefore cannot work.

Daily briefing – Care home workers ‘not been forgotten’

coronavirus

At yesterday’s UK press conference, we heard from the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, NHS England’s Prof Stephen Powis, and Public Health England’s Prof Yvonne Doyle. Key points from Tuesday’s briefing include:

  • The government is NOT going to “choose between” the economy & general public health as this would be “self-defeating”;
  • It accepts there will be an economic shock but expects the economy will have a “relatively swift bounce back”. They Believe the cost of not taking drastic measures would be bigger than the cost of the borrowing it is doing;
  • Firms should be able to apply for money to help pay furloughed staff by the 20 April. There will be a gap of “several days” between applying for help and getting the cash, he says, to allow for fraud checks and the BACS payment process;
  • There is “no truth” in reports that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) producers have been told to prioritise NHS England over other nations;
  • Care home residents and workers have not been forgotten, insisted the Chancellor. Work is under way to get accurate data from care homes but there's a “logistical challenge”;
  • People are urged not to take their “foot off the pedal” and continue to follow advice.

In other developments:

  • All care home residents and staff with Covid-19 symptoms are to be tested for coronavirus as laboratory capacity increases. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he would ensure anyone in a care home with symptoms of the virus, as well as any new care home residents being discharged from hospital into care, would be tested;
  • Protective gowns and masks could be re-used by health workers under “last resort” plans shown in a leaked Public Health England document;
  • A 100-year-old army veteran has raised more than £4m to help the NHS;
  • Some shops have reopened in Austria along with some businesses in Spain;
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the country is weeks away from easing pandemic restrictions, if not longer;
  • US President Donald Trump has said the US would halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, pending a review of the situation;
  • Nine bus workers have died in the capital after contracting coronavirus since the outbreak began.

Latest figures

According to figures from Worldometer on April 15, there are:

Globally

  • 2,000,951 confirmed;
  • 126,782 deaths.

UK                         

  • 93,873 confirmed;
  • 12,107 deaths.

Ireland                 

  • 11,479 confirmed;
  • 406 deaths.

PPE

A UK wide plan to ensure that critical PPE is delivered to those on the front line responding to coronavirus (COVID-19) has been published by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock. The plan can be found here.

This 3 strand plan aims to provide clear guidance on who needs PPE and when they need it, ensure those who need it can get it at the right time and sets out action to secure enough PPE to last through the entire crisis.

THE guidance COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) is available here. It covers use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by health and social care workers, in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It supersedes previous PPE guidance.  A document outlining the main updates to infection prevention and control guidance is available here.

The following posters are available:

Offer coronavirus (COVID-19) support from your business

The government is calling on businesses to apply to help with services. Use this service to tell the government how your business might be able to help with the response to coronavirus.

The support needed includes things like:

  • Medical testing equipment;
  • Medical equipment design;
  • Protective equipment for healthcare workers, such as masks, gowns and sanitiser;
  • Hotel rooms;
  • Transport and logistics, for moving goods or people;
  • Manufacturing equipment;
  • Warehouse or office space, for medical use or storage;
  • Expertise or support on IT, manufacturing, construction, project management, procurement or engineering;
  • Social care or childcare.

Click here to apply.

Advice from the HSE

The HSE has issued advice within a document titled: Social distancing, keeping businesses open and in-work activities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It covers guidance on social distancing, essential and non-essential work, and in-work activity.

Also released is guidance covering RIDDOR, first aid and chemicals:

RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19

What to report?

  • Dangerous occurrences: if something happens at work which results in (or could result in) the release or escape of coronavirus you must report this as a dangerous occurrence
  • Cases of disease: exposure to a biological agent: if there is reasonable evidence that someone diagnosed with COVID-19 was likely exposed because of their work you must report this as an exposure to a biological agent using the case of disease report.

First aid cover & qualifications during coronavirus (COVID-19)

If first aid cover for a business is reduced because of coronavirus or the first aid training needed is not available, this advice points out that there are some things that can be done to still comply with the law.

Arrangements for regulation of chemicals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak 

The HSE has made some administrative changes in the provision of services for regulating chemicals during the coronavirus outbreak. These are set out for each chemical regime, with updated details on how to contact the HSE.

Online isolation notes launched

People unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) can obtain an isolation note through a new online service. Isolation notes will provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, and so cannot work. As isolation notes can be obtained without contacting a doctor, this will reduce the pressure on GP surgeries and prevent people needing to leave their homes.

For the first seven days off work, employees can self-certify so they don’t need any evidence for their employer. After that, employers may ask for evidence of sickness absence. Where this is related to having symptoms of coronavirus or living with someone who has symptoms, the isolation note can be used to provide evidence of the advice to self-isolate.

People who need to claim Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance because of coronavirus will not be required to produce a fit note or an isolation note.

The notes can be accessed through the NHS website and NHS 111 online.

For more information, click here.

NHS asks people to share their coronavirus symptoms to help others

A new coronavirus Status Checker that will help the NHS coordinate its response and build up additional data on the COVID-19 outbreak has been launched by Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.

People with potential coronavirus symptoms are now being asked to complete the status checker and answer a short series of questions which will tell the NHS about their experience.

It is open to anyone in the UK to use on the NHS website and in its initial phase the NHS is particularly keen for anyone who thinks they may be displaying potential coronavirus symptoms, no matter how mild, to complete it.

Status Checker users are clearly told at the beginning and the end of the survey that it is not a triage or clinical advice tool, and that they should visit 111 online for medical advice about their symptoms.

The information gathered will help the NHS to plan its response to the outbreak, indicating when and where more resources like oxygen, ventilators and additional staff might be needed and will provide valuable insight into the development and progression of the virus across the country.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Technology and data is playing a vital role in battling coronavirus and supporting our heroic NHS frontline workers to save lives, protect the vulnerable, and relive pressure on the NHS.

“We must learn as much as possible about this virus, and we are asking the whole nation to join this effort.

“If anyone has experienced symptoms of COVID-19 I would urge you to use our new status checker app to help us to collect essential information on the virus and allow us to better allocate NHS resources where they are needed most.”

The tool is live now and people can complete the survey either for themselves or on behalf of someone else with their permission.

It asks them:

  • why they are staying at home
  • to choose from a series of options to describe how they are feeling
  • whether they have any other health problems
  • their date of birth
  • their postcode
  • how many people are living in their home.

The survey can be accessed on the NHS website here.

Major UK supermarkets bring in safety measures 

Major supermarkets in the UK are bringing in measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including limiting the number of people in stores and floor markings to help customers maintain a safe distance while queuing.

Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and the Co-Op are among those to implement changes, including extra hand sanitisers in stores for staff and customers to use, cleaning products to wipe down baskets or trolleys and putting up protective screens at checkouts.

Stores have also asked people to try to arrive throughout the day, rather than first thing in the morning, and to pay by card.

Companies not doing enough?

The business select committee has said that it’s received thousands of messages from concerned workers who still have to go into work in the UK – including office-based staff, travel agents and furniture manufacturers.

Rachel Reeves, Labour MP and head of the committee, said that “many businesses are not doing what the government is asking them to do.

“Lots of workers have told us that even if they have symptoms, or are living with a vulnerable person, they are still being made to go to work. That’s not acceptable. The government has put in place a scheme for income replacement, which business should use to pay staff if they’re not coming to work.”

She also called for other firms, such as call centres, to ensure staff can work from home: “In time, businesses will be held accountable for their role, what they’ve done in this pandemic.”

Performing health/medical surveillance: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The HSE has issued guidance for occupational health providers, appointed doctors and employers. In the light of advice from Public Health England on COVID-19, HSE has set out in the guidance below, what it describes as a proportionate and flexible approach to enable health/medical surveillance to continue. It applies where workers are undergoing periodic review under several sets of health and safety regulations. The guidance balances the current constraints presented by the COVID-19 outbreak and the need to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers.

Prime Minister’s address

On 23 March, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a major ramping up of coronavirus measures. From last night, people in Britain are allowed to leave their homes for only “very limited purposes”, such as shopping for basic necessities; for one form of exercise a day; for any medical need; and to travel to and from work when “absolutely necessary”.

Key points from the PM’s address:

  • People have been warned not to meet friends or family members who they do not live with;
  • Shopping is only permitted for essentials like food and medicine, and people are advised to do it “as little as you can”;
  • Police have powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings;
  • All shops selling non-essential goods, such as clothing and electronic stores, are ordered to close;
  • Libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship are to close;
  • All gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with – are banned;
  • All social events, including weddings and baptisms are banned;
  • Funerals are not included in the new restrictions;
  • Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed;
  • The restrictions are “under constant review” and will be checked again in three weeks. They will be relaxed “if the evidence shows we are able to”, said the prime minister.

School closures and key workers

Parents have been told that if you can keep your children at home, do so. But key workers still have the right to send their children to school. These are workers in:

  • Health and social care, including doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff;
  • Education and childcare;
  • Key public services including those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, “those responsible for the management of the deceased”, and journalists and broadcasters who provide public service broadcasting;
  • Local and national government;
  • Food and other necessary goods, including those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery;
  • Public safety and national security, including police and support staff; Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel; fire and rescue service employees, border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles;
  • Transport;
  • Utilities, communication and financial services.

Emergency bill to strengthen coronavirus (COVID-19) response plans

The Coronavirus Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 19 March 2020, received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020 and is now in force.

The purpose of the Act is to enable the Government to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of a covid-19 pandemic. A severe pandemic could infect up to 80% of the population leading to a reduced workforce, increased pressure on health services and death management processes. The Bill contains temporary measures designed to either amend existing legislative provisions or introduce new statutory powers which are designed to mitigate these impacts.

Vulnerable groups

Chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty advises that the group of people who should take “particular care to minimise their social contact” are:

  • People over the age of 70
  • Other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccine (such as those with chronic diseases);
  • Pregnant women.

Health and wellbeing considerations for home working and self-isolation

Many businesses have begun to embrace the idea of flexible working and working from home and, in the current climate, more and more of us may find ourselves plunged into doing so for longer than the one to two days a week, which employers and employees adapt to fairly easily, potentially leading to increased work-related stress and mental health conditions for employers.

It is predicted that by 2020, half of UK’s workforce will work from home, according to the Office for National Statistics. SHP, Barbour EHS and The Healthy Work Company have compiled a home working hub to provide research, case studies, videos and resources to enable you to lead this transition in a way which safeguards the health and wellbeing of your teams and maximises the opportunity to embrace new ways of working for the future and how to maintain a positive mental health and limit stress, as well as helpting to create a healthy workplace for individuals.

COVID-19: stay at home guidance

Public Health England has issued stay at home guidance for:

  • People with symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus, and do not require hospital treatment, who must remain at home until they are well;
  • Those living in households with someone who shows symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus.

OJ Health and Safety do not take credit for all the information above. We have used the online source SHP Online and linked accordly throughout.

Author:

Teresa Higgins

Brand Director, Barbour

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