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Managing the emergence of COVID-19 cases in the workplace

Guidance for employers, businesses and workers to manage the risk of transmission in the workplace whilst supporting the NHS test and trace service.

This page was updated on 30 July 2020. 

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As an employer, what is your role in preventing the spread of COVID-19?

As businesses across Greater Manchester begin to reopen, there are numerous considerations for employers around the health, safety and wellbeing of their colleagues and customers. This guide clarifies the actions to take if there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 and the steps to take to minimise the spread of infection.

One of my staff is experiencing coronavirus symptoms – what do they need to do?

As soon as an employee starts exhibiting coronavirus symptoms (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste) they must be sent home immediately to self-isolate for 10 days. Their household or members of their support bubble must self-isolate for 14 days*, regardless of whether or not they are showing symptoms.  The staff member should book a test as soon as they are experiencing symptoms by visiting the NHS website or calling 119.

  • If the test comes back negative, they no longer need to self-isolate. Members of their household of support bubble can also stop isolating.
  • If the test is positive, they should complete the remainder of their 10-day isolation period and their household/support bubble should complete the 14-day isolation period.

 

They will then be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service and should provide contact details for people they have been in close contact with in the 48-hours before they started to develop their symptoms. These details will be held in strict confidence and will only be used in compliance with data protection laws.

* Note:

  • For members of their household the 14-day isolation period begins from when the staff member first exhibited symptoms.
  • For members of their support bubble, the 14-day isolation period starts from the last time they met the staff member who is experiencing symptoms.

How is ‘close contact’ defined?

According to the Test and Trace service, close contact can refer to the following: 

  • Having face-to-face contact with someone at a distance of less than 1 metre
  • Spending more than 15 minutes within 2 metres of someone
  • Travelling in a car or small vehicle with someone – even if it was only for a very short amount of time
  • Sitting close to someone on a plane
  • If you work in, or have recently visited, a setting where there are other people present – such as a school, doctor’s surgery or place of work

Interaction between 2 people having taken place through a Perspex (or equivalent) screen, will not be considered sufficient contact, provided that there has been no other contact. However, the wearing of personal protective (PPE) outside health and care settings will not be considered as mitigation when assessing whether a recent contact is likely to have risked transmitting the virus.

What does a positive result mean for the close contacts?

Anyone identified as having been in close contact with someone who has tested positive will be contacted and required to self-isolate for 14 days - even if they do not exhibit symptoms - to ensure the risk of the spread of the virus is limited. This is going to be a crucial step in controlling the spread of the virus within workplaces as premises begin to reopen.

If they experience symptoms, they should book a test immediately and their household or support bubble should isolate for 14 days.

  • If the test is positive, they should self-isolate for at least 10 days from when the symptoms started, and their household or support bubble should complete the 14-day isolation period.
  • If the test comes back negative, they must still complete the 14-day isolation period. However, other members of their household or support bubble can stop isolating immediately.

What are my responsibilities as an employer?

As an employer, you should encourage workers to heed any notifications to self-isolate and support them when in isolation.

Employers can - and should - ask staff members they have identified as having had close contact with an employee who has tested positive to also get tested.

Any members of staff who are having to self-isolate are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for the duration of their isolation period. However, if they feel well enough and are able, they can choose to continue to work.

As an employer, and depending on the circumstances of how an employee contracted COVID-19, you may be required to complete a RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013). Check out this HSE guidance on RIDDOR reporting for more information. There is no requirement to report incidents of disease or deaths of members of the public or service users.

The government has also asked certain sectors including hospitality, leisure and tourism, close contact services, places of worship and others to collect and maintain records of staff, customers and visitors for 21 days to support the NHS Test and Trace service. New guidance published by the Department of Health and Social Care on 2 July outlines the information required to be collected and how records should be maintained. Public Health England has also published a Customer Logging Toolkit to assist businesses with taking details. This contains a variety of template materials for businesses to display, as well as guidance on how Test and Trace works. The Growth Company has also developed an easy-to-read infographic for businesses which is available to download here.

If a customer informs your business that they have tested positive for coronavirus, you should register their contacts with NHS Test and Trace and leave any follow up work with other customers to the local NHS Test and Trace team. If they assess that the customer was on your premises while potentially infectious, they will contact you to provide support and to obtain the details of anyone who may have been exposed to the virus. 

Employers can access guidance relating to data protection and workplace testing through the Information Commissioner's Office, the UK's independent body set up to uphold information rights.

More information and FAQs about the Test and Trace system and how it affects businesses can be found via this link: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.ukhospitality.org.uk/resource/resmgr/2020/member_documents/cv19/FAQ_for_workplaces_-_NHS_Tes.pdf

UK Hospitality have also published some FAQs on how the hospitality industry can help the track and trace system.

 

The government has also published guidance on how to safely dispose of personal or business waste, including face coverings and personal protective equipment (PPE), during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

How can I best support contact tracing in the workplace?

To support contact tracing, employers should consider introducing shift bubbles or shift buddies, if possible. This means asking staff to work in pairs, or very small numbers (bubbles), so you can keep tabs on exactly who they have been in close contact with. Employees should not mix with anyone outside of their pairing or bubble whilst on your premises.

If you have clients or customers visiting your site, you should also create a written log of their details when they arrive and list the members of staff who they will be meeting with.

You could also keep written records of who is working with who and note the details of customers entering your premises.

Do I need to report an outbreak of Covid in my business?

If a confirmed case of COVID-19 has occurred in your business, the government has developed a series of sector specific early outbreak management action cards which can be downloaded or printed and provide key steps to help you quickly identify, report and respond to any potential COVID-19 outbreaks within the local community. These can be accessed through the government's Reporting an Outbreak resource site. 

If your workplace experiences more than one case, you must report the suspected outbreak to your local health protection team.

Do I need to close my business?

Your business does not need to close if someone tests positive, but you should follow this cleaning advice to reduce the risk of the disease spreading to other employees:

  • Once the employee has left the building, sanitise your workplace with disinfectant – wear disposable gloves and aprons whilst doing so.
  • After use, double-bag the gloves and aprons, then store them securely for 72 hours before throwing them away in your regular rubbish.
  • Use a disposable cloth, and begin by cleaning hard surfaces with soapy water, followed by disinfectant.
  • Pay close attention to frequently touched areas, such as door handles, bannisters and lift buttons.
  • If an area has been heavily contaminated – such as with visible bodily fluids from an infected person – use protection for the eyes, mouth and nose in addition to wearing gloves and an apron.
  • Wash hands regularly, with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and straight after removing any PPE used whilst cleaning.

Further guidance relating to general principles of cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic and cleaning a work place/area where a person with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus has been can be seen through the government page on cleaning in non-healthcare settings outside the home. 

If you don’t feel comfortable cleaning yourself, you can enlist the services of a professional cleaning company to give your premises a deep clean. Aspire Recruitment, the Growth Company’s in-house recruitment agency, have partnered with a specialist cleaning company to offer deep-cleaning services to businesses of all shapes and sizes across Greater Manchester. Find out more about booking a deep clean here.

 

The GC Business Growth Hub has a dedicated resource page to help organisations reopen safely as lockdown restrictions ease. We must all work together to ensure a #SafeGM.

Safely Reopening our Workplaces

 

More information is available on the UK Government’s Coronavirus Business Support website. For more personalised advice call us on: 0161 237 4128 or email us at: BGH@growthco.uk

 

The information provided is meant as a general guide only rather than advice or assurance. GC Business Growth Hub does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information and professional guidance should be sought on all aspects of business planning and responses to the coronavirus. Use of this guide and toolkit are entirely at the risk of the user. Any hyperlinks from this document are to external resources not connected to the GC Business Growth Hub and The Growth Company is not responsible for the content within any hyperlinked site.

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