With coronavirus headline news and the number of cases rising by the day, what should employers be doing to protect their workers and their business?

As with any risk to health in the workplace, business owners have a duty of care to their staff. So, if an employer fails to put appropriate measures in place to protect their staff, will they be liable for worker compensation claims? And if so, do you have appropriate claims management processes in place to handle these effectively?

What Is Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that cause disease in animals. Some of these, including the new Covid-19 virus, have passed from animals to humans. Many people who catch the new virus will experience mild cold-like symptoms and make a full recovery.

However, the panic surrounding Covid-19 is due to its rapid spread and the number of “severe” cases, which currently stands at around 20 per cent of all confirmed cases. Scientists researching the virus in China believe it has split into two strains, one mild and one more aggressive. 

There have been more than 100,000 confirmed cases since the outbreak started and the death toll is more than 3,400 worldwide. In the UK, there are 273 confirmed cases and three deaths are linked to the virus. 

What Is the Government Doing?

The UK government is taking several steps that could impact your business and how employees work.

The government and some organisations have implemented travel bans to countries with a high number of reported cases such as China. We may see an increasing number of companies implement such bans if the number of cases continues to escalate. 

On 9 March, the prime minister will chair an emergency Cobra meeting to decide whether to implement “social distancing” measures, which would mark a move from the current “containment” phase to one of “delay”. These measures could include encouraging employers to allow their staff to work from home. 

Business owners must keep up-to-date with government advice and guidance and implement protective measures accordingly. 

What Should Employers Do?

Under health and safety legislation, employers have a responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. The law places an obligation on employers to do whatever is “reasonably practicable” to achieve this. With regards to coronavirus, there are several steps employers can take to protect the welfare of their workers.

  • Allow employees to work from home. This could be one way to reduce the risk of spreading infection and it may be something the government will shortly advocate. 
  • Ensure policies and procedures are up-to-date, adequate and circulated throughout the company, especially those relating to sickness, absences and leave.
  • Share information on how to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus. Some simple actions can be highly effective, such as washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitiser and self-quarantining if you are unwell. Ensure that there are adequate hygiene facilities provided such as hand sanitisers, dustbins (for used tissues) and hand basins. 
  • If an employee has recently visited an affected area for business or leisure, be proactive in setting up home-based working or advising them to take a leave of absence for the medically advised 14-day quarantine period.
  • Review hygiene and protective measures about the specific nature of the business and the people employees come into contact with. Those who work with vulnerable people, such as the young or elderly, will need higher levels of protection.
  • If an employee displays any symptoms of coronavirus, advise them to seek medical attention and send them home, either to work remotely or on sick leave.
  • Ensure there is an effective employee compensation policy and associated processes in place. If an employee does contract Covid-19 and claims against the business — for example because they believe they caught the virus at work due to inappropriate protection measures — a robust claim handling process will ensure the matter is dealt with professionally and efficiently. Claims management software is the simplest and most effective way to streamline these processes and minimise errors that could prove costly. 

Most responsible business owners will already have sufficient policies, procedures and technology in place to safeguard their employees’ welfare. However, prudent employers will take the time to review and where necessary, amend their systems to ensure they are doing all that is “reasonably practicable” to minimise the risk of coronavirus spreading in the workplace. 

If you’d like to find out more about Logiclaim, our advanced claims handling software, book a free consultation today. Our powerful, feature-rich software will transform the way you manage employee compensation claims. 

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