General covid advice

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We believe this advice to be the best available as at publication (18/03/20 at 0900 hours) but announcements are now being made on a regular basis and you should check sources from this date on.

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COVID-19: Advice and Support

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Health advice

Travel advice

Employers advice

Employees advice

Business support

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Health advice

Social distancing

The government has advised everyone to start social distancing.

Those aged 70 or over, and those with underlying health conditions, should apply the social distancing measures particularly stringently.

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough;
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport, varying your travel times to avoid rush hour, when possible; 3.Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information;
  • Avoid large gatherings, and gatherings in smaller public spaces such as pubs, cinemas, restaurants, theatres, bars, clubs
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.

Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

This advice is likely to be in place for some weeks.

See full social distancing guidance including advice for carers.

 

What should you do if you develop symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19)

It is very important that individuals with symptoms that may be due to coronavirus and their household members stay at home. Staying at home will help control the spread of the virus to friends, the wider community, and particularly the most vulnerable.

The most common symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) are recent onset of:

  • A new continuous cough and/or
  • high temperature

For most people, coronavirus (COVID-19) will be a mild illness.

If you live alone and you have symptoms of coronavirus illness (COVID-19), however mild, stay at home for 7 days from when your symptoms started.

If you live with others and you or one of them have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill.

If you have coronavirus symptoms:

  • do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital
  • you do not need to contact 111 to tell them you’re staying at home
  • testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home

See full stay-at-home guidance

What should you do if you have hospital and GP appointments during this period?

We advise everyone to access medical assistance remotely, wherever possible. However, if you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, talk to your GP or clinician to ensure you continue to receive the care you need and consider whether appointments can be postponed.

Handwashing and Respiratory Hygiene

There are general principles you can follow to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:

  • washing your hands more often – with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser when you get home or into work, when you blow your nose, sneeze or cough, eat or handle food
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms
  • cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in a bin and wash your hands
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in the home

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Travel advice

Foreign & Commonwealth Office travel advice has been updated as of 17th March to advise British nationals against all but essential international travel to all destinations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice.

If you now need to change or cancel your travel plans, follow these steps:

  • contact your airline, travel company, cruise line or other transport and accommodation providers
  • get in touch with your insurance provider
  • continue to follow the NHS coronavirus guidance

The FCO was already advising against all but essential travel or all travel to some areas or countries due to risks that do not relate to COVID-19. This advice remains in place. Check FCO travel advice pages for the latest information.


Air travel

As governments and local authorities bring in measures to control the spread of the virus, some airlines are changing their schedules or suspending flights for some destinations. If you’re due to travel to an area affected by coronavirus, keep up-to-date with the latest information from your travel company or airline.

Guidance for staff in the transport sector

Gov.uk provides guidance to those working in the transport sector around helping to stop the spread of coronavirus. This includes: what to do if someone becomes unwell; advising passengers they should not travel if they are feeling unwell with symptoms of coronavirus; and how to help to protect others from infection, including using announcements and public notices.

See the full advice for staff in the transport sector.

Cleaning and waste

Limiting spread in transport hubs

Arrivals into the UK

 

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Advice for Employers

Full advice for employers can be found on gov.uk.

This covers:

  • Preventing spread of infection
  • Paying and reclaiming Statutory Sick Pay (from first day of absence, and for those self-isolating for up to 14 days)
  • Guidance on facemasks
  • What to do if an employee or a member of the public becomes unwell
  • What to do if a member of staff or the public with suspected COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace
  • When individuals in the workplace have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Returning from travel overseas to affected areas
  • Certifying absence from work
  • Cleaning offices and public spaces where there are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • Rubbish disposal, including tissues
  • Handling post, packages or food from affected areas

 

Certifying absence from work

By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, if any, from the employee. This does not need to be fit note (Med 3 form) issued by a GP or other doctor. The Government has said it will bring forward an online service for gaining a sick note and providing this to employers.

Your employee will be advised to isolate themselves and not to work in contact with other people by NHS 111 or PHE if they are a carrier of, or have been in contact with, an infectious or contagious disease, such as COVID-19.

We strongly suggest that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to stay at home due to suspected COVID-19, in accordance with the public health advice being issued by the government.

Statutory Sick Pay for employees

Statutory sick pay (SSP) is extended to all of those who are eligible and asked to self-isolate, even if they are not showing symptoms.

During the Coronavirus outbreak SSP will be paid from the first day of absence, not the fourth.

Those who are in self-isolation should be treated as being on sick leave as they are “helping to protect others from the virus and should not be penalised for doing the right thing”.

Employers do not need a sick note from a GP. The Government has said it will bring forward an online service for gaining a sick note and providing this to employers.

 

Reclaiming Statutory Sick Pay (SMEs)

The Government has announced it will bring forward legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19

employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020

employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19

employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note

eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force

 

What to do if a member of staff or the public with confirmed COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace

Closure of the workplace is not recommended.

The management team of the office or workplace will be contacted by the PHE local Health Protection Team to discuss the case, identify people who have been in contact with them and advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken.

A risk assessment of each setting will be undertaken by the Health Protection Team with the lead responsible person. Advice on the management of staff and members of the public will be based on this assessment.

The Health Protection Team will also be in contact with the case directly to advise on isolation and identifying other contacts and will be in touch with any contacts of the case to provide them with appropriate advice.

Advice on cleaning of communal areas such as offices or toilets will be given by the Health Protection Team.

 

View the full advice for employers on gov.uk

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Advice for Employees

Full advice for employees can be found on gov.uk.


Working from home

As part of its policy on social distancing, the Government has advised that people work from home, where possible.

Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information.

Will my employer be obliged to pay me if I have to stay at home?

Statutory sick pay (SSP) is extended to all of those who are eligible and asked to self-isolate, even if they are not showing symptoms.

During the Coronavirus outbreak SSP will be paid from the first day of absence, not the fourth.

Those who are in self-isolation should be treated as being on sick leave as they are “helping to protect others from the virus and should not be penalised for doing the right thing”.

By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness (i.e. employees can self-certify). After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, if any, from the employee. Employers do not need a sick note from a GP. The Government has said it will bring forward an online service for gaining a sick note and providing this to employers.

What about if I have a zero hours contract?

You may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. Check with your employer if you’re unsure.

If you’re not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay, you may be able to apply for Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

What about if I’m self employed?

You can apply for Universal Credit.

What if the whole family has to stay at home and there’s no income coming in?

If no one is getting Statutory Sick Pay, the family can apply for Universal Credit.

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Business Support

In the recent budget, the Government has set out a package of temporary and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by the coronavirus.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs
  • a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.
  • a £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) and Rural Rates Relief
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

 

Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees

The Government is bringing forward emergency legislation to allow small- and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • this refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19
  • employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020
  • employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19
  • employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note

The eligibility period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of Statutory Sick Pay to those staying at home comes into force

The government will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.

 

Support for businesses who pay business rates

Finally, the government is introducing a business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year.

A £25,000 grant will also be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority. Guidance for local authorities on the business rates holiday will be published by 20 March.

 

Support for businesses who pay little or no business rates

The government will provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to business currently eligible for SBRR or Rural Rate Relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs.  The funding for this will be provided to Local Authorities in early April.

 

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch in a matter of weeks to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments.

 

Support for businesses paying tax

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities.

If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

 

Insurance

Businesses should check with their insurance provider if they are covered. Many businesses are unlikely to be covered as most business interruption insurance policies are dependent on damage to property, which will exclude pandemics. Some businesses may have purchased a specific add on relating to notifiable diseases, but some of these will still specify damage to the building. Some businesses may have purchased supply chain or denial of access cover which may meet their needs in this case.

 

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