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12 Mar 2020
What you can do to prepare for coronavirus
The UK’s Chief Medical Officers have raised the coronavirus risk from low to moderate, but a lot of our clients say they are unsure what that means for them and what they can do.
While Genies aren’t germ gurus, we decided to take a look at the available information so we can make some helpful suggestions.
What do we know?
Coronavirus (covid-19) originated in a food market in Wuhan, China. Normally found in animals, it has made the jump to humans, spreading widely in China and with cases now being confirmed around the world.
Most people affected will have unpleasant flu-like symptoms including fever, tiredness, and a dry cough. Sadly, for some people with pre-existing health conditions, it could be more serious. We know that more than 3,300 people have died so far from around 100,000 confirmed cases.
The infection problem
It’s difficult to contain the spread of coronavirus because it takes two weeks for symptoms to appear. During this time someone might be infectious, without knowing that they have coronavirus.
The best information available at the moment is that coronavirus can be passed on by touching people or surfaces, and by being close to people who have coughs and sneezes. Because it’s a virus, antibiotics won’t help and there isn’t a vaccine.
Practical things to do
Good hygiene and quarantine are the most practical steps we can all take, but what will that mean in practice?
At work you can make sure you have plenty of handwashing supplies and disposable towels. If you use hand driers, it’s worth checking that they are all working. If you can obtain it, provide your employees with hand sanitiser gel too.
You can also remind everyone about the NHS ‘Catch it. Bin it. Kill it.’ advice. You could even supply plenty of packs of tissues. Confirm with your cleaning team to see if they want tissues to be put into separate bin bags that can be tied and labelled.
If anyone at work is coughing or sneezing, keep at least a metre away – just in case.
According to World Health Organisation, healthy people only need to wear a mask if they are taking care of a person with suspected coronavirus or if they are coughing and sneezing themselves.
Coronavirus and the workplace
If any of your employees become unwell at work, they should keep away from their colleagues (ideally three metres) and go to a first aid room, if you have one. They should contact the NHS 111 number (using their own mobile phone if possible) to ask for advice.
If you think someone at work has coronavirus you can contact your local Public Health England (PHE) team (of their equivalents in Scotland or Wales) who will help you assess the risk and decide what steps you can take.
People returning to the UK from a Category 1 affected area should self-quarantine and call NHS 111. Employees who have been to Category 2 areas and who aren’t unwell don’t need to take any action unless they later develop symptoms, when they should call NHS 111.
Anyone who thinks they have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus should contact NHS 111 or a doctor (but not go to their doctor’s surgery in the first instance) and stay at home if they are advised to do so.
The Prime Minister has said that people in quarantine will be entitled to sick leave and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the first day of their quarantine and this change will be introduced in emergency legislation.
In the meantime, you might want to remind your employees about their contractual position concerning sick pay and explain your position. Depending on how much they earn, you might need to do this on a case by case basis.
The government has a four-part response plan focusing on containing the outbreak and delaying its spread to provide time to carry out research and put measures in place to minimise the impact
Keeping your business going
Like every other business, the Genies are making plans in case the situation becomes more serious.
We have been in touch with our out-of-hours Genies in New Zealand to make sure we can keep things running smoothly. We have also contacted our clients to check what plans they are putting in place, in case we need to roll out the magic carpet to cover their calls while their teams work from home, for example.
The government thinks that up to one in five people at work could be affected when the outbreak is at its peak. For a large business this might be manageable, but for small businesses it could be a real problem if two out of your team of 10 are ill at the same time.
You will need to think about how your supply chain and your cashflow might be affected too, if orders and deliveries are delayed.
If you don’t currently have a Cloud-based phone system, you might want to consider it because it will give your team the flexibility to take phone calls, wherever they are. Normally, you can make arrangements in just a few days.
If you want to put contingency plans in place in case you need to cancel meetings, postpone events, reorganise your plans or change working arrangements, now is a good time to let the Genies know. You’ll be amazed how much they might be able to help you and surprised at how quickly they can work their magic.
- The Department of Health and Social Care is publishing an update at 2pm every day on Twitter (@DHSCgovuk).
- The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has advice on its website.
- The World Health Organisation has created a live map of confirmed cases around the world.
- ACAS has advice for employers on its website.
Call a Genie today to confront your coronavirus concerns and complete some clever contingency plans.
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I had just about given up hope of finding a company to deal with our overflow of incoming calls. The companies I had used in the past were awful, one company couldn't even get our company name right. I wanted my clients to believe that whoever was on the end of the phone were actually sat in my offices. The Office Genie has given me just that, so much so that when my sister recently rang to speak to me, she thought we had taken on new staff.
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