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COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions for Businesses

These FAQs are intended to support businesses in Southwark to access the key information they need in relation to operating and trading during the coronavirus pandemic.

Each local authority is required to have a coronavirus Outbreak Prevention and Control Plan. Southwark’s plan can be found at: https://www.southwark.gov.uk/health-and-wellbeing/public-health/southwark-outbreak-prevention-and-control-plan-opcp

Businesses have an essential role to play in preventing the spread of coronavirus and need to be prepared to prevent and respond to cases among their employees, and to respond to workplace and local outbreaks. The aim is to ensure you have the necessary support to carry out this role.

What are the key measures underpinning this approach?

  • Making your business COVID-19 secure and preventing transmission
  • Carrying out a risk assessment
  • Ensuring staff stay at home and order a test if they have symptoms of COVID-19
  • Implementing social distancing for employees and visitors
  • Enabling and promoting hand hygiene
  • Ensuring face coverings or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) are used if they are required
  • Establishing regular cleaning
  • Giving clear messages to staff, visitors, and customers about preventing the spread of COVID-19 in your business
  • Active engagement with NHS Test and Trace service including keeping a visitor log
  • Managing potential outbreaks
  • Supporting staff

Making Your Business COVID-19 SecureIs my business allowed to be open?

Please check the latest guidance on which businesses and venues can be open. The guidance includes a link to current local restrictions around England.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance

What are the main requirements for businesses for operating safely?

Current national guidance outlines 5 main steps to working safely:

  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
  • Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
  • Help people to work from home
  • Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
  • Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/5-steps-to-working-safely

There are different sector-specific guides for how to make your workplace COVID-secure. Check the guide relevant to your business when making your plans and check back regularly for updates.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

What is the role of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in COVID-19?

The Health and Safety Executive continues its role as a regulator with the aim of preventing workplace death, injury, or ill health.

It has a series of guidance pages on working safely and restarting work during COVID-19, including on how to conduct a risk assessment for your business.

https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/index.htm

Who can I ask if I have a question about health and safety including safe opening and working in my business?

You may find the following helpful:

National guidance on Working Safely during COVID-19: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/index.htm

Southwark Council Health and Safety webpage: https://www.southwark.gov.uk/business/health-and-safety

You can also contact the Southwark Council Health and Safety team with your question at ohs@southwark.gov.uk

Where can I find advice on financial support for my business?

What other steps should my business be taking?

As part of operating during COVID-19, you should review your business continuity arrangements to ensure that you have a plan in place if, for instance, a number of your staff needed to self-isolate due to a confirmed case at work or if your premises were to need to temporarily close.

Preventing TransmissionWhat measures can I take to reduce transmission?

Social distancing, hygiene and having fixed teams and working patterns that reduce contact are the most effective preventative measures to minimise the risk of transmission. You must ensure that employees and other people visiting your workplace understand and comply with the measures you put in place.

Guidance on social distancing in the workplace: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/social-distancing/index.htm

Guidance on cleaning, hygiene and hand sanitiser: https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely/cleaning.htm

What are the requirements for face coverings?

Face coverings are not classed as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as they are largely intended to protect others, not the wearer, against the spread of coronavirus. They are not a substitute for other ways of preventing spread of infection, such as physical distancing and frequent handwashing.

Depending on the service that your business provides and your premises, your customers may be required to use a face covering.

Please check the most up to date guidance on face coverings for the public, including exemptions: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

And the legislation on the wearing of face coverings: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/791/contents/made

When considering your employees, please check the national guidance for your sector for guidance on face coverings and PPE and how to incorporate these into your risk assessment:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

Active Engagement with NHS Test and TraceWhat are my responsibilities as a business?

Depending on the sector you operate in, you may also be required to collect information on staff, customers, and visitors to your business to support NHS Test and Trace. Please ensure you check the guidance page for more details on whether this applies to you and how to maintain your records: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/maintaining-records-of-staff-customers-and-visitors-to-support-nhs-test-and-trace

What are my responsibilities as an employer?

The national guidance page on NHS Test and Trace for businesses outlines your responsibilities as an employer, what to do if an employee develops symptoms of COVID-19, and the definition of a close contact: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-workplace-guidance

What do I do if an employee reports a potential case of COVID-19?

When someone first develops symptoms and orders a test, they will be encouraged to alert the people that they have had 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 contact their employer to alert those co-workers.

Close contacts at this stage do not need to self-isolate unless requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace or a public health professional, but they should take extra care with practicing social distancing and good hygiene. If they subsequently develop symptoms, they should self-isolate immediately.

If the individual subsequently tests positive, NHS Test and Trace will notify close contacts and instruct them to self-isolate. If a co-worker is identified as a close contact they will be contacted. This will occur by either a phone call, text message, email or letter. The period of self-isolation will be for up to 14 days, from the point of most recent contact with the person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

What do I do if I am notified about a confirmed case of COVID-19 linked to my business?

As a business you may be informed of a confirmed case of COVID-19 by NHS Test and Trace, an employee, customer or your local health protection team. For businesses in Southwark, your local health protection team for COVID-19 is the London Coronavirus Response Cell (LCRC): https://www.gov.uk/guidance/contacts-phe-health-protection-teams#london-coronavirus-response-cell

If an individual tests positive for COVID-19 and is confirmed to have visited your business while infectious, LCRC will help you to undertake a risk assessment and tell you what to do next.  

LCRC will be notified through the NHS Test and Trace if a visitor, customer or employee has received a positive test for COVID-19 or if a cluster or an outbreak is potentially linked to your premises. This would happen if someone who tests positive has named your business as their workplace or listed your premises as a place they visited recently. If you are made aware of a case meeting the above criteria and you have not already heard from them, please contact the LCRC team at: LCRC@phe.gov.uk or 0300 303 0450

How do staff get tested?

If a member of staff and/or their family has symptoms of COVID-19, they should self-isolate and arrange to get a test. Testing needs to be done within the first 5 days of having symptoms.

Tests need to be booked and employees may be able to opt for home-testing or asked to attend a mobile testing unit or NHS facility. They should not attend these facilities without a booking.

There is a self-referral process for testing on the government website at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-COVID-19-getting-tested

Anyone who doesn’t have access to the internet can call 119 to book a test. This service can be accessed by people with hearing or speech difficulties by calling 18001 119.

If a member of staff is concerned about their health and wellbeing following a test result, or if their condition gets worse, or does not get better after 7 days, they can contact the NHS 111 service.

How do I know if staff should self-isolate?

Employers should support employees who need to self-isolate and must not ask them to attend the workplace. More information on when and how people should self-isolate can be found on the following guidance pages –

People who have symptoms of COVID-19 and those living in the same household: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance

People who are contacts of someone with possible or confirmed COVID-19 but who do not live in the same household: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-for-contacts-of-people-with-possible-or-confirmed-coronavirus-covid-19-infection-who-do-not-live-with-the-person 

What is the current self-isolation timeline?

Current national guidance states that if an individual has symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus, they will usually need to self-isolate for at least 10 days. They will usually need to self-isolate for 14 days if a member of their household or support bubble has symptoms or has tested positive (even if they are not symptomatic).

If contacted by NHS Test and Trace, the employee will need to isolate for the full 14 days from when they came into contact with the positive case. They will not be able to leave self-isolation early even if they are not symptomatic as it can take up to 14 days to develop symptoms.

This guidance may be subject to change and employees should be advised to check the most up to date information on self-isolation: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/self-isolation-and-treatment/how-long-to-self-isolate/

What if a member of staff gets notified by NHS Test and Trace while at work?

If a member of staff receives a notification from NHS Test and Trace that they need to self-isolate, they should leave work and return home immediately. If possible, they should wear a face covering en route and avoid public transport.

Does the self-isolation guidance apply to key workers as well?

Key workers must follow the same guidance around self-isolation. It is critical that, if asked to self-isolate, they do so for the full period in order to avoid transmission.

Managing OutbreaksWhat do I do if I have a potential outbreak at my business?

The NHS Test and Trace for businesses guidance has information on what constitutes an “outbreak” and when you should contact the local health protection team. Ensure that you understand this guidance, so that you can take action quickly if it is needed: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-workplace-guidance

The government website has a variety of “action cards” for different organisations which lay out the steps you should take if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in your business: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reporting-outbreaks-of-coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-early-outbreak-management

How do I get in touch with my local health protection team?

For businesses in Southwark, your local health protection team for COVID-19 is the London Coronavirus Response Cell: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/contacts-phe-health-protection-teams#london-coronavirus-response-cell

Supporting staff

As a business, you have a responsibility to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of your employees. During COVID-19, this includes making your workplace COVID-secure and supporting employees to self-isolate when required.

For guidance please see:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/nhs-test-and-trace-workplace-guidance

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

Can employees who are extremely clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 come to work and how can I support them?

People who are extremely clinically vulnerable to COVID-19 were advised to shield in England between March and August 2020.

As of 1 August 2020, shielding has been paused. However this guidance is subject to change and you should check the latest guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

Each set of sector-specific guidance for workplaces has a section on who should go to work and the support that should be in place for employees. Please consult the page relevant to your business: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

How do I support my employees to maintain their mental wellbeing?

If you have an Employee Assistance Programme or access to counselling, you should ensure that you regularly communicate the contact details to staff. Even if you don’t have this kind of service, there’s lots of tailored information and support that you can share with your staff. To find out more go to Southwark Council’s Taking Care of Your Mind webpages.

You can also signpost staff to Able Futures, a government funded service which provides free and confidential support and advice for anyone who is employed and experiencing mental health difficulties. Members of staff can self-refer and receive one to one support for up to nine months.

If you’d like any more information on improving the health or your employees or your workplace, please contact Ginette.hogan@southwark.gov.uk 

Posted in BID News, Business News, Coronavirus-Covid-19
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