Coronavirus: HR Support

4 Mar
by Suzie Business Owner & Senior HRBP

I have researched a few sources and I have put together some general HR advice in regard to coronavirus.

What do I have to pay my employees?

The workplace’s usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply if someone has coronavirus.

Employees should let their employer know as soon as possible if they’re not able to go to work.

The government has made clear that if NHS 111 or a doctor advises an employee or worker to self-isolate, they’re entitled to statutory sick pay. If the employer offers contractual sick pay, it’s good practice to provide this.

The Prime Minister has also announced that the 3 day qualifying period for SSP will be waived in the case of coronovirus self-isolation.  This means that employees will be paid SSP from the first day of absence not the 4th day as with normal SSP rules.

There is a double edge on this advice, you don’t want sick people to attend work, however the company has to bear the cost of company sick pay – without much evidence to back it up – the employee might find it difficult to obtain a sick note (or “fit note”).

If an employee is not sick but their employer tells them not to come to work, they should get their usual pay.

If an employee needs time off work to look after someone

Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations to do with coronavirus.

Handwashing or Alcohol Handrubs

Supermarkets are running out of hand sanitiser!  You may want to put up posters on the correct way to wash or use handrub.  Also providing hand sanitisers would make your employees feel more comfortable at work – make sure  to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Follow these five steps every time.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2.  Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3.  Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4.  Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5.  Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.


We see a lot of masks on the TV, however if you research this, the masks should be changed regularly and generally help people not touch their face with potentially dirty hands.  If you have a particularly vulnerable work environment it might be a good choice to provide them to employees.

Office Cleaning

You may wish to put in place a regular clean of office equipment with household wipes or specialist cleaners.  Remember doors and handles and the kitchen facilities (taps, kettles, drawers etc).  Basically, anywhere employees touch stuff. 

You can provide household wipes for employees to wipe down their own equipment, which gives people comfort and a bit of security that they are doing something for themselves.

Remember if people share equipment, it will be more important to regularly clean them.  Don’t leave it up to the employees, regularly clean them as a company.

If employees do not want to go to work

Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they’re afraid of catching coronavirus. An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have.

If there are genuine concerns, the employer must try to resolve them to protect the health and safety of their staff. For example, if possible, the employer could offer flexible working.

If an employee still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this.

If an employee refuses to attend work, it could result in disciplinary action.

If someone becomes unwell at work

If someone becomes unwell in the workplace and has recently come back from an area affected by coronavirus, they should:

  • get at least 2 metres (7 feet) away from other people
  • go to a room or area behind a closed door, such as a sick bay or staff office
  • avoid touching anything
  • cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
  • use a separate bathroom from others, if possible
  • The unwell person should use their own mobile phone to call either:
    •  111, for NHS advice
    •  999, if they’re seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk

If someone with coronavirus comes to work

If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close.

The local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team will get in contact with the employer to:

•                     discuss the case

•                     identify people who have been in contact with the affected person

•                     carry out a risk assessment

•                     advise on any actions or precautions to take

If the employer needs to close the workplace

Currently it’s very unlikely that an employer will need to close their workplace.

 But they should still plan in case they need to close temporarily. For example, making sure staff have a way to communicate with the employer and other people they work with.

Where work can be done at home, the employer could:

  • ask staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to take them home so they can carry on working
  • arrange paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computers

In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time. Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.

If the employer thinks they’ll need to do this, it’s important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.

I hope that helps with your employees, please give the team at Breathing Space HR if you have any questions or concerns.


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