Up-to-date guidance from The SLTA to business owners and their employees on the Coronavirus (COVID – 19).
There is a new helpline – now live – providing businesses across Scotland with advice and guidance on Covid-19.
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop confirmed that the helpline, based at Scottish Enterprise’s existing call centre in Clydebank, will enable companies to call advisers from Monday to Friday, between 8.30am and 5.30pm.
The First Minister, meanwhile, has confirmed that the Scottish and UK Governments are moving from the containment phase to delay, and that large gatherings of over 500 people will be cancelled to support the resilience of emergency services.
The Chief Medical Officer has advised that people with mild symptoms suggestive of Covid-19, including continuing coughing or a fever or a temperature of above 37.8, should self-isolate for seven days. Those who have been in contact with someone who is experiencing symptoms should only self-isolate if they begin to experience symptoms.
The business helpline number is 0300 303 0660.
Coronavirus, or Covid-19 as it is now known, is a respiratory illness which has caused many infections and deaths not only in China, where it originated, but also in other countries around the world. As this is a new disease, we are still learning about it, and so issues such as how long the incubation period could be are uncertain.
Viruses such as flu have been found to survive on surfaces for up to 2 days. People may be carriers of coronavirus and may be in the incubation period where they are not yet showing symptoms but could be shedding the virus, which is why it is appearing in some countries where there is not a known source.
While at time of writing the number of confirmed cases in the UK is increasing, by being prepared, we could help to reduce the risks if the numbers begin to rise. As the incubation period may be at least 14 days and statistics may be behind, by introducing preventative measures now, may pay dividends.
The good news is that preventive measures are similar to those of other respiratory disease and rely on good basic general and personal hygiene to stop the virus entering the body, which is why the likely routes of transmission need to be considered.
Know the routes of transmission
• Direct contact to face – eyes, nose from droplets spraying from an infected person onto another person
• Contamination via droplets from sneezing and coughing landing on surfaces and then transferring via hands on to eyes and nose
• Contamination to hands from sneezing or coughing and then transfer to others (handshakes) or on to hand contact surfaces to be picked up by others by their hands and transferred to their eyes or nose
• It is believed that Coronavirus is infective during the 14-day incubation period, so you could be carrying it without having any symptoms and wouldn’t know; others you are in contact with may also be carrying the virus without any symptoms and could be infectious.
• Taking preventive measures means assuming that it is around and taking action accordingly. It is not a waste of time and is actually very cheap to implement the most effective measures, because these involve firstly washing your hands at critical times and second keeping dirty hands away from your face.
• Because the precautions for this virus are pretty much the same as for any respiratory virus, lessons learned may reduce the risk of getting other flu and cold viruses anyway, so it is not a waste of time to instil some good habits.
Shutting the door on the virus – wash your hands or use hand gel immediately on arrival at work and on arrival at home: ‘destination hand washing’
• First and foremost, ask all staff arriving at work to wash their hands immediately upon arrival. You could put up a notice to remind them, at the entrance. Any security people at reception could remind everyone to wash their hands or use a hand gel. That way any virus particles picked up on the way to work are removed before they can be spread to others either via direct contact (shaking hands) or by touching hand contact surfaces (door handles, tables, kettle handles, kitchen equipment etc.)
• Hand gel, if used, needs to be anti-viral and the higher the alcohol content, generally the better it is (over 62% is recommended). Check the labels to ensure that they are effective. Gels are a good additional resource in the workplace and could be positioned to encourage use.
• Also advise everyone to wash their hands as soon as they get home from shopping or work, particularly if they have travelled on public transport
How staff can protect themselves
- Keep your hands away from your face, particularly your eyes and nose
- Your hands can pick up virus particles on any surface that is contaminated – anywhere where an infected person may have touched, or where someone has unwittingly transferred the virus from one contaminated surface to another.
- NEVER touch your eyes or inside your nose unless you have just washed your hands.
- Don’t shake hands
- Try to avoid crowded places if possible
- Turn away from people on public transport if you can, particularly if they are coughing or sneezing
Advice for hospitality staff
• If staff are serving customers, whilst at the moment there is no advice to wear masks, normal precautions should be taken to improve handwashing at key times.
• The most important thing is to remember the routes of transmission, and to take precautions at key moments. If it is easier, in terms of operation, hand gel can be used on visibly clean hands.
Hand washing times
• On arrival at work
• After clearing a table
• After touching anything that guests may have contaminated
• After touching hand contact surfaces such as handrails, door handles
• Always after using the toilet or going into the toilet areas
• After cleaning
• After cleaning hotel rooms and touching bedding and towels
• After doing any laundry
• In the catering or hotel office, many people could be sharing the phone, keyboard, mouse, and the desk.
• Disinfect these before you sit down using an antimicrobial wipe that has anti-viral properties – look on the label (leave these on the desk). As coronavirus is new, tests have not been done on this yet, but the next best thing is to use those products that claim to kill flu and cold viruses.
• Always sneeze or cough into the crook of your arm to prevent your hands becoming contaminated
• If you use a tissue, bin it immediately, and don’t leave around on surfaces. Wash your hands or use hand gel afterwards
• If anyone has flu symptoms such as cough, sneezing, fever, shortness of breath they should not come to work, and if concerned should contact their GP and ask for advice, before going to a GP surgery or chemist.
• Self-isolation will affect labour and should be considered
• Fit staff may need to be prepared to be on standby for extra rotas
• Uniforms should be washed at temperatures above 60°C or a laundry sanitizing agent used if the fabrics can’t be washed at such a temperature.
• There is more control if laundry is carried out in-house or professionally, rather than staff taking it home.
• Uniform must not be worn on the way to work as it could become contaminated.
At the moment there is a lot of discussion about how effective these are, and we should await direction from Public Health Agencies about when it may be appropriate for masks to be worn.
If masks are worn, then care needs to be taken not to contaminate yourself when putting them on, or when adjusting them. Remember – hands are the main route of transmission, so you need to wash hands before putting the mask on and if you take it off and replace it, then make sure you haven’t contaminated it in the meantime – because it fits directly on the face – a route of transmission.
ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATION FOR HOTELS
Guests could be carrying the virus and may not know about it and may also arrive having picked it up on their hands during travelling.
• Have sanitizer for guests to use on the desk
• Make sure all reception staff have access to sanitizer behind the desk so that they can use this between serving guests
• Housekeeping staff could be at risk from picking up the virus left on hand contact surfaces in bedrooms, on linen and towels.
• Hand contact surfaces should be sanitized using a chemical that is effective against respiratory viruses as well as bacteria. You may already have a check list that includes the following:
- Bedside tables
- Remote control
- Flush handles
- Door handles – inside and out
- Hair dryer handles
- Mini bar handle
- Kettle handle
• Ideally glasses and crockery should be removed and washed in a dishwasher not the room sink
• Linen and bedding should be bagged before leaving the bedroom to reduce any risk of transmission in the corridor
• It is critical that staff protect themselves by hand washing immediately after cleaning each room or use a sanitizing hand gel
Training should be given to ensure that all staff understand the risks, and this need not take long but should include details on route of transmission and the importance of hand washing
COVID-19 – AN EMPLOYERS GUIDE
Employers have a statutory duty to ensure the health and safety of employees whilst at work. Employers will not wish to put any employee at risk of contracting the coronavirus while at work. But what do employers have to do in relation to paying their employees or providing them with time off?
This is a practical guide to employers on the issue on how to deal with employees who are affected by coronavirus and whether they have to be paid.
- The employee who has coronavirus
An employer’s usual sick leave and pay entitlement policy will apply. An employer does not need to deviate from its normal position when someone is sick, but an employer should be flexible with regards to receiving a doctor’s fit note as the employee will not be in a position to get this if they have been told to self-isolate. The Prime Minister has now announced that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be paid from the first day off sick, not the usual forth day.
- The employee who has been told to self-isolate by a doctor
In this case the employee is not sick so would not normally be entitled to sick pay. There is no legal right to pay someone if they are not sick but have been told to self-isolate or are in quarantine. While there is no legal right to pay them, it is good practice for the employer to treat this as sick pay and follow its own policy with regards sick pay, taking account of the PM’s announcement regarding SSP. The employer could alternatively agree that the time is taken as holiday.
If the employer refuses to pay the employee anything there is a risk that the employee will come into work anyway which could spread the virus and cause bigger problems to the employer in the long-term.
- The employer tells the employee not to come to work
In this case the employee is entitled to be paid as if they were in work.
- An employee requiring time off to look after someone
If an employee’s child is sick or their school closes employers should consider what the employee’s contract says about time off for dependants. Employees are entitled to time off for this but there is no legal requirement to pay them for this time. Employers should take a flexible approach to this to see if any practical measures e.g. home working, could be put in place. Employers should bear in mind that all employees should be treated equally.
- A worried employee who does not want to come to work
Refusing to attend work can result in disciplinary action. However, in this highly unusual situation employers should listen to the employees concerns and see if an agreed approach can be taken, e.g. time off as holiday, flexible working such as working from home or unpaid leave.
- Employees planning to travel to affected areas
Employers should require that anyone planning to travel to any area with high concentrations of the virus inform them so that an agreed plan can be arranged in accordance with official guidance (e.g. Public Health Agency). Employers should ensure that any policy that is applied is done so fairly so as to avoid any potential discrimination.
Employers need to keep up to date with official advice from the Public Health Agencies to ensure they are keeping their staff as safe as possible. They should follow their own policies in relation to sick pay (taking account of the PM’s announcement regarding SSP), sick leave and time off for dependants where possible and consider alternative arrangements for working if appropriate, e.g. home working or taking time off as holiday. A degree of flexibility by an employer, e.g., by paying sick pay when an employee is self-isolating even though not sick, may be better than an employee who is potentially infected coming to work anyway and spreading the virus.
Redundancy should always be the last resort for any business. If there is no alternative to redundancy, employers must follow a fair procedure to avoid claims being brought against them for unfair dismissal. If you have a redundancy procedure this should be followed. If you do not have a redundancy procedure it is advisable to address this omission.
Prior to compulsory redundancy employers could ask employees if they would like to volunteer for redundancy. Employers do not have to agree to their request but it may assist the employer in avoiding compulsory redundancies depending on the circumstances. This voluntary redundancy can be in accordance with the statutory redundancy entitlement or an enhanced proposal. If voluntary redundancies are being accepted by employees it is also advisable to do this via a Compromise Agreement to ensure there is a legally binding agreement.
- Notice to employees
Employers must provide written notice to employees or employee representatives of the proposed redundancies setting out the reasons why, who is affected, details of selection criteria to be used and the procedure to be followed together with details of redundancy payments.
- Selection Criteria
Employers must ensure they choose a fair selection criteria for the at-risk employees to avoid any discrimination. e.g. part time workers are usually women so using that as a criteria may be indirectly discriminatory towards women. It should be fair, objective and consistent. Examples of fair criteria are:
- Attendance record
- Disciplinary record
- Skills & Experience
If you are making 20 or more employees redundant within a 90-day period, an employer has a statutory obligation to consult with either the employees’ trade union representative or an elected representative of the affected employees. You must consult at least 30 days before the first dismissal if you have between 20-99 employees or 90 days if over 100 employees.
If you are making less than 20 employees redundant there is no fixed period of consultation required. It needs to be enough to be meaningful, so more than one meeting would be required. Employers should fully inform their employees why redundancies are proposed and listen to their employees’ views and ideas before making a final decision.
During the process employers must consider what alternatives to redundancy there are, i.e. are there any other jobs available?
Employers must have an appeal procedure available to its employees.
Alternatives to redundancy
- Negotiate – Speak to your staff and ask if they will agree to changes in their terms and conditions. An employer cannot vary an employee’s terms and conditions without the agreement of the employee. If they did, the employee can resign and claim constructive dismissal.
- Lay-offs – A lay-off is a temporary suspension of employment for a short period. There must be an express term in the employees’ contract of employment to enable them to be laid off and the employee may have a right to be paid depending on what it states in the contract.
- Short-time working – If the employment contract allows for this, employers can reduce the employee’s hours but again the employee may be entitled to be paid.
This is a complex area of law and before taking any action it is advisable to seek professional legal advice.
COVID-19 – GOVERNMENT BUDGET ANNOUNCEMENT
Following calls from the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and other industry groups for the Scottish Government to match, if not improve upon, the Chancellor’s plans on business rates in England and Wales, new measures to limit the impact of COVID-19 on the business community in Scotland have been announced by the Scottish Government Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes.
The Minister announced the following steps which will be put in place to support businesses during the 2020-21 financial year:-
- A 75% rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a rateable value of less than £69,000 from 1 April 2020.
- An £80 million fund to provide grants of at least £3,000 to small businesses in sectors facing the worst economic impact of COVID-19.
- 1.6% rates relief for all properties across Scotland, effectively reversing the planned below inflation uplift in the poundage from 1 April 2020.
- A fixed rates relief of up to £5,000 for all pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 from 1 April 2020.
The Finance Secretary will also write to all local authorities urging them to respond positively to requests from rate payers for payment deferrals for a fixed period.
Legislation to allow small and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. This refund will cover up to two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19. SSP will be extended to include individuals who are unable to work because they have been advised to self-isolate, and people caring for those within the same household who display COVID-19 symptoms and have been told to self-isolate.
Employers with fewer than 250 employees (as of 28 Feb 2020) will be eligible for the above. Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP as a result of COVID-19. Employers should maintain records of staff absences, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. The Government has stated it will work with employers over the coming months to set up the repayment mechanism for employers as soon as possible.
The eligible period for the reclaim scheme will commence from the day on which the regulations extending SSP to self-isolators come into force (TBC).
All businesses (and self-employed people) in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. These businesses can contact HMRC’s new dedicated COVID-19 helpline now for advice and support. The dedicated HMRC helpline for this is 0800 015 9559. Further details are on HMRC’s site.
A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch in a matter of weeks to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £1.2 million in value.
This new guarantee will initially support up to £1 billion of lending on top of current support offered through the British Business Bank.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will now be available for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 or those who are unable to work because they are self-isolating in line with Government advice. This is in addition to the change announced by the Prime Minister that SSP will be payable from day 1 instead of day 4 for affected individuals.
People who are advised to self-isolate for COVID-19 will soon be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note to cover this by contacting NHS 111, rather than visiting a doctor. This can be used by employees where employers require evidence. Further details are to be announced.
What have you done in your business to combat the Covid-19 virus?
You may be doing something extra that other licenses would benefit from knowing, so please send us any information on what extra action you are taking.
Further advice and guidance
From an employment perspective, ACAS has also issued guidance, which can be found here
The UK Government has issued COVID-19: guidance for employers and businesses
NB: While every attempt to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information contained in this document has been made, the content is for general information purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisers. The SLTA does not represent, warrant, undertake or guarantee that the use of this document will lead to any particular outcome or result. The SLTA shall not be liable to you in respect of any business losses, including without limitation loss of or damage to profits, income, revenue, use, production, anticipated savings, business, contracts, commercial opportunities or goodwill.