Coronavirus: What Next For UK SMEs?
On 31st January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially designated the COVID-19 outbreak as a global public health emergency.
As of today, the number of patients who have tested positive for Novel Coronavirus in the UK has risen to over 100.
What is Coronavirus?
According to health professionals, coronaviruses are common in animal species, and most don’t affect humans. However, as of now, seven strains are known to infect humans. COVID-19 is one of those strains.
Symptoms are known to appear within 2-14 days after contracting the virus.
These symptoms include:
Human Coronaviruses typically cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illness, and those affected exhibit flu-like symptoms as seen above.
However, some human Coronaviruses (such as COVID-19) can cause more severe complications. While it may start similar to regular flu, it can progress into more life-threatening conditions like bronchitis and pneumonia.
People with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, infants and those with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease are more likely to develop these severe complications.
There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19, and it has not yet confirmed how it spreads from person to person.
If you’re running your own business, you will naturally be worried about the impact Coronavirus can have on you.
Best Practices for Reducing COVID-19 Risks in your business
At the moment, most companies are running as usual with a few changes to standard policy.
The first thing you can do is make sure your staff follow more strict hygiene regimens. The NHS has released the following tips in response to the crisis:
· Wash your hands with soap and water regularly
· Always wash your hands when you get home or into work
· Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
· Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
· Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards
· Try to avoid close contact with unwell people
· DON’T touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
To encourage these practices, consider putting up posters to remind staff and make hand sanitiser freely available.
Working from home
Many businesses are enforcing bans on staff who have recently been to affected areas who instead should work from home.
This will protect your other employees from potential exposure before the individual shows symptoms which can take up to 14 days to appear.
Advise your employees to stay at home if they have any symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath or are running a fever.
If these symptoms develop during their working day, send them home immediately.
Employees who are at particular risk of developing complications due to the disease should be allowed to work from home to minimise risk to them.
Similarly, plans should be set in place for employees with children to be able to work from home should schools start to shut.
It’s thought that up to a fifth of UK workers could be off sick at the same time during the peak of a coronavirus epidemic.
Your business needs to be prepared to operate without key members of staff.
In cases where only one person is responsible for essential tasks, ensure that other employees are trained to take over duties should someone fall ill.
Not putting the right protections in place for your employees during an epidemic could result in some costly Employers’ Liability claims.
Keep an eye on the latest news and don’t put your employees at unnecessary risk.
Keep updated on the latest news on Coronavirus on the WHO website.