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Coronavirus and work: What you need to know

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all aspects of people’s lives…

And that includes work. In addition to concerns about social distancing, self isolation, or fears that you or your family will be exposed to the illness, you may also be worried about the impact it’ll have on your income. 

Should you be working from home? What if you get sick? Will you still get paid? 

To help you deal with the situation, and to ensure you’re keeping yourself and your colleagues safe, here’s everything you need to know about coronavirus and work: 

 

How to avoid the spread of coronavirus at work 

If you’re still going into work, it’s important to ensure you’re following the correct procedures when it comes to avoiding the spread of COVID-19. 

Employers have an obligation to ensure workplaces are fully equipped with cleaning supplies, soap, hand sanitiser, and anything else you may need to keep yourself, your colleagues, and your workspace clean. Your organisation should be providing regular updates on this, but to find out more, get in touch with your HR team. 

Generally, here’s what you can do to keep yourself (and others) safe: 

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Use hand sanitiser if you don’t have access to soap and water 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the inside of your elbow (instead of your hands) when you sneeze or cough 
  • Avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands 
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately after using (and wash your hands)
  • Only travel on public transport if you need to

If you get symptoms at work, make sure you tell your employer and go home immediately and self-isolate for 7 days. 

To find out the most up-to-date tips and advice on how to protect yourself against coronavirus, visit gov.uk.

 

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolation involves isolating yourself in order to protect everyone else from the virus. This means staying at home, avoiding public transport, and not going to work or school. 

If you start to feel ill with flu-like symptoms, you’ll be required to self-isolate for 7 days initially. If you still have a temperature after 7 days, you’re advised to stay home longer, until it subsides. Anyone you live with will also need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day you first got symptoms. 

If possible, you should ask friends or family to go out and get food and other essentials for you, or order online or by phone. You can still go outside to exercise, as long as you do it within a safe distance from others. 

 

What is social distancing? 

Social distancing involves avoiding contact with other people wherever possible. 

It’s particularly important for vulnerable groups such as over-70s, pregnant women, or those with long-term health conditions or weakened immune systems. 

To reduce the spread of infection, the government advises everyone to stay away from busy public places, including pubs, offices, clubs, theatres, and other social venues during this time. 

This also means working from home wherever possible, working more flexibly (e.g. changing your start and finish times to avoid busy commutes), and changing face-to-face meetings to video or phone calls. 

 

When should I self-isolate? 

You should self-isolate if: 

  • You start to display flu-like symptoms (i.e. a new, persistent cough and/or a temperature)
  • You are or have been in close contact with someone who has the virus 
  • You’re awaiting test results for Coronavirus
  • You have returned from any of the affected countries since 19 February (even if you don’t have any symptoms)

 

What if my colleagues get sick? 

If someone you work with has been recently diagnosed with coronavirus, you should self-isolate for 14 days – even if you don’t have any symptoms. 

If a colleague appears unwell but is still attending work, you might be concerned about them spreading their illness to others. Whilst you can’t force them to go home, you can take extra cleanliness measures (such as regular hand washing etc.) to protect yourself. 

If you’re concerned about the people around you not following the proper safety precautions – you can also mention this to HR, who will be able to reinforce the importance of cleanliness without naming names.  

 

Should I avoid shaking hands? 

Shaking hands is commonplace in many workplaces – but with the risk to your health at an all time high, you might want to avoid it. 

With many people touching their nose and mouth without even realising it, or perhaps not washing their hands as well as they should, it probably isn’t worth the risk of transmission. 

To be safe, you’re well within your rights to suggest an alternative to a handshake.

 

Can I take time off to care for someone who is sick? 

If someone relies on you for help (e.g. an elderly relative or neighbour) and they get coronavirus, you’ll be able to take time off to take care of them. 

The exact amount of time you’re able to take will depend on your individual situation, and will be something you discuss with your employer. Legally, they don’t have to pay you, but some may choose to. To find out if you’ll get paid, check your contract or workplace policy. 

If a dependant who lives with you begins to show symptoms (e.g. your child), you’ll be required to self-isolate along with them for 14 days, and you’ll receive statutory sick pay. 

 

What if my employer needs to close my workplace? 

Your employer might decide to close your workplace temporarily to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

This could mean that you’re not able to work, or that you’re required to work remotely

If your job doesn’t allow you to work from home, or the business needs to close completely, you may be asked to reduce your contracted hours, or use your holiday for the duration of the closure. You’ll still be paid for this time, unless otherwise stated in your contract. 

If an employer decides to ask its staff to take holiday, they’ll have to inform them twice as many days before the amount of days they have to take (e.g. 10 days before for 5 days off). 

 

What if I have to work from home? 

If you have to work from home, it’s important to ensure you have everything you need to carry out your job effectively. 

This may involve: 

  • Taking your work laptop (or other devices) home
  • Ensuring you have a working camera and microphone for video calls 
  • Gaining remote access to work files
  • Installing remote working software
  • Speaking with your manager and/or HR to set up any reasonable adjustments you may need
  • Setting up a workspace at home  

 

Tips for working from home

It can be difficult to stay productive while working from home, especially if it’s the first time you’ve done it. 

To make sure you’re doing your best work (and your wellbeing isn’t suffering), here are our top tips for working from home: 

  • Get dressed 
  • Create a dedicated workspace 
  • Write daily to-do-lists
  • Work set office hours 
  • Take regular breaks to avoid burnout  
  • Stay connected with your colleagues
  • Actually go outside (even if it’s just in the garden)  

How to work from home 

10 office organisation ideas that will transform your cluttered workspace

 

Will I get paid if I have to take time off due to Coronavirus? 

You’ll get paid Statutory Sick Pay from day 1 instead of day 4 if you’re affected by Coronavirus. 

If you’re not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (e.g. if you’re self-employed), you can apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). 

 

What happens if I am asked to take unpaid leave, or lose my job? 

COVID-19 may mean some people lose their jobs, or have to take unpaid leave. 

If this happens to you, it’s important to check what you may be owed – whether it’s a ‘statutory guarantee payment’ from your employer, Jobseekers Allowance, or anything else that could help you supplement your income. 

To find out more, check your employment contract and/or visit ACAS

And for those looking for work? Don’t panic. Not only are there thousands of new jobs added to reed.co.uk daily (including remote jobs and temp work), there’s also a growing number of opportunities to help support the health and social care sector – with 111 call handlers particularly in demand. 

Want to make a difference? Apply now. 

 

Still searching for your perfect position? View all available jobs now. 

 

*All information was correct at the time of writing. Please visit gov.uk for more details.

 

References 

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

 

 

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