How to prepare for Coronavirus – An employer’s guide

By Anita Jaynes on 27 February, 2020

With Coronavirus (COVID-19) dominating the headlines and UK businesses already feeling the knock-on effects, it is important that employers are prepared should the situation worsen.

We asked local HR expert, Jo Kangurs of Keystone HR for some employer guidance.

Jo Kangurs, Keystone HR

What if someone is not sick but cannot work because they are in self-isolation or quarantine? 

There is no legal right to pay if someone is not sick but cannot work because they have been told to self-isolate, are in quarantine or are abroad in an affected area and are not allowed to travel back to the UK.  

Having said that, it is good practice to treat this type of absence as sick leave and follow the company’s normal sick pay policy. 

What if any employee is not sick but you tell them not to come to work?

If you tell an employee not to come to work because, for example, they have returned from China or another affected area, then they should get their usual pay.  If possible, you could ask the employee to work from home.    

What if you suspect an employee is displaying symptoms of the virus? 

If an employee is displaying symptoms of the virus and has recently returned from an affected area you should try and move them away from other people, ask them to contact 111 and follow the appropriate guidance. 

What if employees do not want to come in to work? 

Some employees may not want to come to work because they are afraid they might catch Coronavirus. In these cases, you should listen to their concerns and try and resolve them to protect the health and safety of your staff.  You may want to be flexible in your approach and consider options such as home working, holiday or unpaid leave. If however, the employee refuses to attend work, this may result in disciplinary action.  

Where can you find the latest advice on managing Coronavirus in the workplace?  

ACAS has recently published advice for employers and employees.  There is also up to date information on the government and NHS websites.

Ensuring you communicate with your staff will really help. Set out how employees should behave in work from a hygiene/hand-washing perspective, but also that you expect to be informed if any employee has been to one of the affected areas or has been in contact with someone who has. It’s also important to enforce your normal absence reporting procedures, so there is less temptation for sick days to snowball as other employees decide to take time off.

To find out more about Keystone HR and the support they offer businesses, visit: or email Jo Kangurs on: .