For most of us, the recent outbreak of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) is largely unprecedented. The way that we, as individuals and as businesses and employers, should be handling the situation is constantly shifting, and we all need to learn how to adapt and manage the guidelines to ensure that we are all staying as safe as possible, and limiting the risk of spreading the virus.
With over 127,000 cases worldwide so far – 36 of which have been in Scotland – it’s imperative that we all prepare ourselves and our businesses for change and unexpected movement in the coming weeks and months. Following government guidelines, here’s the Eskmills guide to helping you and your staff understand and adapt during this difficult period.
How can we protect our employees in the workplace?
COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing, and appears to spread easily. It may also be possible to become infected by touching a contaminated surface or object, and then touching the nose or mouth.
To prevent the spread of disease, you should encourage employees to:
- Stay home if they have a new continuous cough and / or high temperature. Government guidelines should be followed
- Leave work immediately if they develop symptoms in the workplace
- Shield coughs and sneezes with a tissue, elbow or shoulder – not using your bare hands
- Wash hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, and regularly use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser
- Stop shaking hands with clients and colleagues
- Consider whether meetings are essential at this point in time, or if they can be conducted over the phone, over video call or email
Employers should also ensure that all staff have access to washing facilities which are kept well-stocked with soap and sanitising gels and wipes. Frequently-touched surfaces, such as desks, counters and doorknobs should be regularly wiped down and cleaned.
You will have noticed that we have placed signs around Eskmills to remind all clients and staff of this practice, and we will endeavour to play our part in keeping Eskmills a safe and clean place to work.
Should we send our employees home?
Employees should stay home if they are showing symptoms of infection. If staff who are showing symptoms are insistent on showing up to work, they should be sent home without hesitation. Public health organisations recommend that companies bar employees from the workplace for a period of 14 days following a medium or high-risk exposure to the virus – which means having been in close contact with someone who has the virus, or having travelled from a high-risk region.
If it’s possible for employees to work from home, then this is the preferable route for businesses to take. However, if it’s not possible to complete the nature of your business’ work at home, then you will need to review the situation on an ongoing basis. You should review your company’s sick pay policy and encourage staff to take this time as sick leave. The government have just announced plans to reimburse small businesses who have to pay out sick leave due to coronavirus, so it’s worth looking into this and seeing what help you might be eligible for.
At Eskmills, we’re committed to helping our clients and colleagues, so we’ll keep you updated with any changes we need to make as and when this becomes relevant.