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What should be included in an Infectious Disease policy?

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The coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything else we have faced in our lifetime, and before this employers could be forgiven for not having an Infectious Diseases policy in place.  Our Employment Law Team started advising our clients in February that an Infectious Diseases policy is vital to prepare for the Covid-19 outbreak and if your business still does not have one in place, then now is the time to implement one.  The team here discusses the key terms and clauses that should be included in an Infectious Diseases policy and how they are supporting employers during the turbulent times we are currently living and working in.

What makes an infectious disease so risky?

Infectious diseases are caused by pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi; the diseases can be spread, directly or indirectly, from one person to another.  Infectious diseases can spread quickly in the workplace through employees having direct contact with each other or by indirect contact, for example when an employee touches a phone or keyboard and then another employee touches it.  This leads to increased levels of sickness absence amongst employees which in turn can negatively affect productivity, efficiency and morale.  With other employees having to take on the extra workload, this could lead to overwork, stress, and further sickness absence.  It is therefore important to minimise the spread as quickly as possible.

Why should I have an Infectious Disease policy in place?

The purpose of an Infectious Diseases policy is to establish the procedures to be followed by you and your workforce when an individual is infected with a communicable disease.  It should outline what action is to be taken, by whom and the key lines of communication needed to ensure a timely, sensitive and professional response.

The policy should set out the variety of ways that an infection can be spread, namely by air-borne transmission, direct contact and faecal-oral transmission.

The policy should also explain ways that the workforce can minimise the spread of infection.  Some examples of this would include, but are not limited to:

  • Washing hands regularly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds particularly after a toilet visit, sneezing or coughing;
  • Using hand sanitisers;
  • Socially distancing by keeping at least 2 metres (6 foot) apart.  You should consider how you will implement this in practice, which may involve increasing the numbers of employees who work from home;
  • Ensuring that individuals do not come into the workplace if they feel unwell or are displaying any of the specific symptoms associated with the disease;
  • Remind the workforce to avoid touching their face, in particular the eyes, mouth and nose.

You may already have a homeworking policy and this should be cross referenced in the Infectious Diseases policy.  This policy will ensure that employees know how to work from home and what is expected of them during this period.  You should consider implementing a homeworking policy if you do not already have one; you will have a process to follow immediately and do not have to delay home working whilst you work through the practicalities.

The Infectious Diseases policy should also cover sickness absence.  In particular it should explain how employees should notify you of their absence from work and explain their obligation to self certify or provide evidence for their absence.

The section regarding sickness absence should also cover the employees’ entitlement to sick pay, including Statutory Sick Pay and any additional Company Sick Pay provided, if applicable. If employees are not entitled to sick pay there should be a section explaining the alternative ways you will treat the absence, such as treating it as annual leave or making up the hours in a reasonable time period on their return to work.

We know that as an employer you will have many questions about how to support your employees during this time, as well as how to stay on the right side of Employment Law and staying up to date with the regular legislative changes and updates from the Government.  We are working with our clients through our Employment Law support package, Peace of Mind, through which we can provide unlimited access to advice, a full review of your documentation, including documents such as your Infectious Diseases policy and access to training opportunities.  You can find out more about Peace of Mind by contacting the team on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk.  Alternatively, if you have specific questions for the team, do also feel free to contact us and we will see how we can help.

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.