Managing COVID-19 cases in the workplace
Managing COVID-19 cases in the workplace
Employers need to consider carefully what is expected of them if one of the workers becomes unwell. This section provides guidance on actions recommended if a worker becomes unwell with possible coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, and concerning other workers who were in contact with the unwell worker.
Case development within the workplace
If anyone develops symptoms of COVID-19 in the business or workplace they should be sent home and advised to follow the stay at home guidance and seek a test.
If a member of staff has helped someone who has developed symptoms of COVID-19, they do not need to go home unless they develop symptoms themselves. They should wash their hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after any contact with someone who is unwell with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 infection. If the person who has been sent home is subsequently confirmed as having COVID-19, they may be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and asked to self-isolate.
It is not necessary to close the business or workplace or send any staff home unless you are advised to do so following investigation by the relevant authorities. You should keep monitoring the government response to COVID-19 for further updates.
Contact tracing: contact with co-workers
Contact tracing is an important step in stopping the spread of COVID-19.
When someone develops symptoms of COVID-19, they should arrange to obtain a test and alert people they have been in close contact with in the 48 hours before symptom onset. If any of those close contacts are co-workers, the person who has developed symptoms may wish to (but is not obliged to) ask their employer to alert those co-workers.
The NHS Test and Trace service will follow up with people who need to self-isolate because they have had recent close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. More detailed guidance on the NHS Test and Trace service for employers, businesses and workers is available. If someone who has tested positive has recently visited or attended a food business, the contact tracing process will be escalated to the local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team, who will liaise as necessary with the manager of that facility.
Supporting workers who need to self-isolate
As described in the NHS Test and Trace workplace guidance, you should support workers who need to self-isolate and must not ask them to attend the workplace if they have been advised to stay at home.
You should ensure:
- a plan of communication with staff and others is included as part of the business continuity plan
- a single point of contact (SPOC) is nominated. This will ensure that the correct contact point for outbreak management is identified in advance of any outbreak. This individual will lead on liaison with local public health teams
Multiple cases in the workplace
If there is more than one case of COVID-19 associated with your workplace, you should contact your local PHE health protection team to report the suspected outbreak.
If the local PHE health protection team declares an outbreak in the setting, you will be asked to record details of symptomatic staff and assist with identification of contacts. You should therefore ensure all employment records are up to date. You will be provided with information about the outbreak management process, which will help you to implement control measures, assist with communications to staff, and reinforce prevention messages.
The heath protection team will:
- undertake a risk assessment
- provide public health advice
- where necessary, establish a multi-agency incident management team to manage the outbreak
The team will request basic background information on your staff including numbers, shift patterns and rotas, details of your site and information on measures in place such as social distancing, hand hygiene and cohorting.
The team will assist you with contact tracing in the workplace and provide advice on self-isolation for staff, contacts and their households. They will also provide advice on infection prevention and control, cleaning, and any further control measures required. Depending on the size and/or spread of the outbreak, they may need to undertake wider testing of the workforce. You will be kept informed through the process.
To help you manage any identified outbreak, you will be sent a resource pack by your local PHE health protection team or local authority. This pack will provide you with information, practical advice and will include details of the roles and responsibilities of all the agencies involved in COVID-19 outbreaks in food businesses.
For more information go to Public Health England's Coronavirus Resource Centre.
Cleaning and waste disposal
Employers should ensure that objects and surfaces that are touched regularly are cleaned and disinfected using standard cleaning products.
Guidance on cleaning and waste disposal to help businesses reduce the spread of coronavirus government is available from FSA guidance and PHE guidance.
Help and support for businesses