UK Chief Medical Officers have declared that the risk from Novel Coronavirus / COVID-19 is a Public Health emergency of international concern and the risk in the UK was increased in from low to moderate in February 2020.
We appreciate many of our workers are concerned about the financial implications of the current, unprecedented situation. We have many roles available with responsible clients adhering to self-distancing guidelines and are looking at how we can place those workers who are able to work into alternative assignments.
In addition, we are reviewing the guidance provided by the Government regarding the Job Retention Scheme (aka Furlough Scheme), which is being regularly updated by the Government, including trying to establish when the Furlough Grants will actually be paid. We are also taking advice from the REC (Recruitment & Employment Confederation) on how best to implement this scheme for those of our workers who are eligible for it. Whilst the Government has already confirmed that PAYE workers paid via a recruitment agency are covered by the scheme there are still a number of areas that need further clarification but as a minimum, you would need to have been on our payroll on 28th February 2020.
If you were engaged by us but paid via an umbrella company you would need to contact your umbrella company directly to discuss whether you are eligible to be Furloughed by them and if you were engaged as a self-employed contractor then there is alternative support available for you (see here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme).
As soon as we have further clarity on the eligibility of the scheme and when the Furlough grants will actually be made we will let our workers know.
Below is our policy on Novel Coronavirus/COVID19 and the temporary workplace.
All advice is up to date at time of publishing and will be updated where there is a change according to PHE.
Before you start each new assignment or after a period of absence we will ask you to confirm if you have travelled outside of the UK and in particular to any of the high risk areas as outline by Public Health England (PHE) as updated here to assess whether there is any potential risk to be managed with our client. It is likely that if you have travelled to one of the Category 1 areas (see table below), that we will be unable to place you until you have self-isolated for 14 days or more. If you have travelled to one of the Category 2 areas we will have to ensure you have not been symptomatic, and if you have, that you have followed advice published by PHE before placement. As it is expected that this situation will evolve we will ask about all travel you may have undertaken and take reference to PHE’s advice for that country and area as while the list below is up to date at time of publication it is subject to change.
Absence Following Sickness
If you have been absent from your assignment owing to sickness we will ask you to complete a return to work form asking about your illness prior to you returning to your placement. If the illness relates to a respiratory issue / potential flu symptom such as fever with a cough we will ask you if you have had any travel outside of the UK and complete a risk assessment as described above before you return to work.
If you cannot attend work because your child’s school has been closed as a result of coronavirus, you should be aware that this absence is unpaid, however you may wish to take holiday if you have accrued enough time.
Should you become affected by this, please contact your Branch at the earliest opportunity so that we can work with the client to provide additional cover where necessary
Preventing the spread of infection
PHE have advised the following precautions to help contain the spread of the Coronavirus:
- 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
- wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
- try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
- clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
- If you have had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
If a confirmed case is identified where you are placed we should be notified by the client however we also ask that you notify your branch immediately. You should advise us immediately if the contact has been made outside of the work environment as we may need to inform our client. The local Health Protection Team will be notified by the client and we will ensure that you are included in any advice. You should flag to us and the client if you:
- were in close face-to-face or touching contact
- were talking with or being coughed on for any length of time while the employee was symptomatic
- cleaned up any bodily fluids
- close friendship groups or workgroups
- were living in the same household as a confirmed case
Contacts are not considered cases and if they are well they are very unlikely to have spread the infection to others however those who have had close contact will be asked to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the confirmed case. Those who have not had close contact with the original confirmed case do not need to take any precautions and can continue to attend work.
Handling post, packages or food from affected areas
Employees should continue to follow existing risk assessments and safe systems of work. There is no perceived increase in risk for handling post or freight from specified areas.
Cleaning offices and public spaces where there are suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
Coronavirus symptoms are like a flu-like illness and include cough, fever, or shortness of breath. Once symptomatic, all surfaces that the person has come into contact with must be cleaned including:
all surfaces and objects which are visibly contaminated with body fluids
all potentially contaminated high-contact areas such as toilets, door handles, telephones
Public areas where a symptomatic individual has passed through and spent minimal time in (such as corridors) but which are not visibly contaminated with body fluids do not need to be specially cleaned and disinfected. If a person becomes ill in a shared space, these should be cleaned using disposable cloths and household detergents, according to current recommended workplace legislation and practice.
Rubbish disposal, including tissues
In the unlikely event that you work with someone who contracts the virus, you should be aware of how to deal with any waste that they have been in contact with. All waste that has been in contact with the individual, including used tissues, should be put in a plastic rubbish bag and tied when full. The plastic bag should then be placed in a second bin bag and tied. It should be put in a safe place and marked for storage until the result is available. If the individual tests negative, this can be put in the normal waste. Should the individual test positive, you will be instructed what to do with the waste by the Health Protection Team via the client with whom you are placed.