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COVID-19: Employment Policies and Fact Sheets for Companies in the UK

Date: 10 March 2020
K&L Gates Document
Company’s Current Response to Outbreak of Coronavirus

The health, safety and welfare of each member of our team as well as their family members is a high priority for us. We are, therefore, closely monitoring the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) (“Coronavirus”). It is an evolving and dynamic situation, so our response to it may change. However, we wanted to provide you with background information about Coronavirus to improve understanding of the disease and provide some directions on how to respond to it. The risks of Coronavirus should be taken very seriously. The Company will monitor developments vigilantly, but at the same time, we should guard against overreaction, as some stories may tend to sensationalize the issue. Because the situation is fluid, we will update you when information changes as we are able to do so.

Global Overview

Towards the end of December 2019, authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, announced a cluster of cases of pneumonia associated with a local seafood wholesale market, for which a cause had not yet been identified. On 8th January, a new Coronavirus “COVID-19” was identified as the cause of the illness.

As of 4 March 2020, there are over 93,000 confirmed cases with around 3,000 deaths, predominantly in the Hubei province of China. Over 75 countries globally, across all regions, have reported confirmed cases and the number is growing daily. Although the vast majority of cases have been confined to Hubei, China, the expectation is that the virus could continue to spread throughout the world. There have been around 163 confirmed cases of infection in the United Kingdom.

Guidance and Further Information

The Company is following and reviewing a variety of resources in this situation, in particular information provided by the World Health Organization (“WHO”), Public Health England and the NHS.

  1. WHO has declared the Coronavirus outbreak as a global emergency. Coronavirus situation reports are published daily.
  2. Public Health England has issued safety and other guidance related to the disease.
  3. The NHS has also published health information and advice.
NHS Key Advice:

If you think you might have Coronavirus, do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

Call 111 if you need to speak to someone or use NHS 111 online Coronavirus service.

What is Known About the Transmission
Authorities have confirmed that the virus spreads through two routes:
  • Environment-to-human: Information suggests that Coronavirus is "zoonotic" - transmitted from an animal source to humans. The initial cluster of cases appeared to have a common source of exposure - a local live seafood and animal market.
  • Human-to-human: From a sick person to others who are in close contact. The virus is actively in the human-to- human transmission phase. The spread has largely been limited to family clusters and healthcare workers but several new cases indicate a generalised human-to-human spread.

In general, scientists believe that Coronavirus spreads from one person to another in the same way as other respiratory infections, including colds and the flu - through infected respiratory droplets. The sick person expels these when they cough, sneeze, or talk and possibly in his or her fecal matter and blood as well. Others can get the disease via contact (direct or indirect) with these contaminated droplets.

There is currently no evidence that you can catch Coronavirus from:
  • parcels and letters from China or other affected areas; or
  • food or takeaways (but it's always a good idea to wash your hands in soap and water or use hand sanitiser gel before you prepare or eat food).

There is currently no evidence that companion animals or pets can be infected with Coronavirus but it's always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets to protect you against common infections that can pass between pets and humans.

Know the Symptoms

For confirmed Coronavirus infections, reported illnesses have ranged from infected people with little-to-no symptoms to people being severely ill. Besides knowing how Coronavirus is transmitted, recognizing the symptoms is also an important step. Symptoms can begin as early as one day after coming in contact with the virus and can sometimes last as long as fourteen days. This can allow the virus to be spread unknowingly.

The symptoms of Coronavirus are:
  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath

But these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.

Please note that, according to NHS guidance, it's very unlikely to be Coronavirus if:
  • you have not been in close contact with someone with confirmed Coronavirus; or
  • you have not been to a country or area with a high risk of Coronavirus in the last 14 days.

People with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) are more likely to become severely ill with the virus.

Prevention

There is currently no vaccine for Coronavirus. The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine.

However, simple hygiene measures like washing your hands with soap and water often, and avoiding people who are unwell, can help stop viruses like Coronavirus spreading.

In order to minimize the risk of infection, wash your hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds and whenever you:
  • get home or into work;
  • blow your nose, sneeze or cough; and
  • eat or handle food.

It's important to use soap and water or a hand sanitiser.

Please note that there is very little evidence of widespread benefit of wearing face masks for members of the public.

If you think you've been in close contact with someone with confirmed Coronavirus, use the NHS 111 online Coronavirus service to find out what to do. https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19

Travel and After Travel

You may need to get medical advice if you've recently travelled to the UK from somewhere with a higher risk of Coronavirus.

These places are:
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • Iran
  • Italy – only northern Italy (anywhere north of Pisa, Florence and Rimini)
  • Japan
  • Laos
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar (Burma)
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Tenerife – only the H10 Costa Adeje Palace Hotel
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

If you've been to one of these places in the last 14 days, find out what to do using the NHS 111 online Coronavirus service.

Company Policy Related to Those That Travel

If you have any travel planned, please be sure to check for travel advisories on the gov.uk website.  

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is currently advising against all travel to Hubei Province, and against all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has produced information on travel insurance implications following the outbreak.

If you have any international work-related travel, please contact the Human Resources Department in advance. We will assess whether the travel is necessary based on current known advisories and/or if business needs support an alternative to the travel, such as attendance in meetings by video or other means.

If you, a family member or someone with whom you reside in the same household has travelled to China or any other affected area, please contact the Human Resources Department and do not report to work. We will make arrangements for you to work remotely for fourteen days until you can confirm that you and your family members residing with you are not infected by Coronavirus. Please note, the fourteen-day telework policy applies only to the specific risk of Coronavirus.

This accommodation may not be appropriate for other employee illnesses. If you cannot work remotely, the Human Resources Department will work with you to assess risk associated with your return to work, and it may implement safety protocols for you and your coworkers.

Company Policy Related to Sick Leave

For the health and safety of all of your coworkers, it is essential that you do not report to work if you suspect you have Coronavirus If you suspect that you or a family member that resides with you has Coronavirus, please call NHS 111 if you need to speak to someone and do not report to work.

If you are showing any symptoms of Coronavirus, you should not report to work until either (1) a healthcare provider examines you and confirms that you do not have Coronavirus, or (2) a healthcare provider diagnosis you with Coronavirus and then clears you to return to work. If you have contracted Coronavirus, and you believe you became infected with the disease while working for the Company, including during work-related travel, please immediately alert the Human Resources Department.

Please follow Company policies related to sick leave and for reporting that you will be absent. For all medically confirmed cases of Coronavirus, including anyone with complications from the disease or anyone requiring extended leave to recover, please contact the Human Resources Department to obtain information about Sick Pay, Short Term Disability Leave or Long Term Disability Leave. If you are unable to contact the Human Resources Department, please have a family member or other person contact the Human Resources Department to obtain the necessary paperwork for you.

If you have a confirmed case of Coronavirus, the Company will need you to provide an authorisation from your healthcare provider authorising you to return to work. The Company will keep all employee health information confidential. If a healthcare provider confirms you do not have Coronavirus, and you have recovered from your illness, please return to work as you would normally from a common illness like the cold or flu.

If you contract Coronavirus and suffer from any complications that impact you upon your return to work, please contact the Human Resources Department to discuss whether there are any reasonable adjustments that can be made to assist you while you recover.

Company Health and Safety Policies

Please follow the Company’s health and safety policy including Company rules related to the use of personal protective equipment, including the use of gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection. If you have any questions about the Company’s health and safety policies or the use of personal protective equipment, please contact the Human Resources Department.

Acknowledgement of Company’s Current Response to Outbreak of Coronavirus

I acknowledge that I have read the Company’s Response to the Outbreak of Coronavirus (“Response”) and that I understood it and agree to comply with it. I further acknowledge that I have been reminded of the Company’s Health and Safety Policy and understand that it is my responsibility to be familiar with it and abide by its terms.

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Signature

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Printed Name

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Date

 

The employment policy and fact sheet provided above can be shared with your employees. If you have any questions or need legal advice on your company’s specific circumstances or situation, please email COVID-19@klgates.com.

This publication/newsletter is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting a lawyer. Any views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the law firm's clients.

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