There has been an increase in the worrying prospect that coronavirus (COVID-19) could become the first truly disturbing pandemic in this globalisation era. Whilst, Ireland currently remains in a “containment phase” in relation to COVID-19 (the coronavirus) there is over 80,000 cases officially recorded, with the death toll developing rapidly, currently at 3,000.
The Head of the World Health Organisation said that the increase in cases are “deeply concerning” but said the outbreak has not reached the pandemic stage.
The recent developments of the coronavirus in Italy has caused the death rate there to rise to 10, the majority in Northern Italy. Recently, a school in Dublin has joined three schools in Waterford in saying that they had students abroad on school ski-trips over the midterm in Italy in the epicentre of the outbreak. They are seeking advice from the HSE after the students returned home from the school ski trips in Northern Italy.
With the increase of “affected areas” comes the increased possibility of cross contamination. It can take up to 14 days for symptoms of the virus to show, and therefore it is recommended that employers request their employees to disclose to them whether they, in the last 14 days, (i) have been in close contact with someone who has the virus (ii) have been to one of these affected areas and have developed symptoms, or (iii) recently been in a healthcare centre or hospital where patients with the virus were being treated, and have developed symptoms.
Symptoms may include a cough, a shortness of breath, breathing difficulties, or a high temperature.
If this the case, the HSE have advised that the person should “self-isolate” and:
- Phone your GP, emergency department or student healthcare centre immediately. Do NOT go to your GP’s surgery, ED or healthcare centre. This is so you do not accidentally put other people at risk. Your GP or doctor will tell you over the phone what to do next.
- Stay indoors.
- Avoid contact with other people.
- Follow this advice even if your symptoms are mild.
If an employee is required to “self-isolate”, employers should adhere to their own internal policies and procedures, for example the sick leave policy. Where possible, employees may be permitted to work from home during this self-isolation period, however where this is not possible, employers will need to make a decision on whether or not the employee should be paid during this time. When making this decision, employers are encouraged to take into consideration their duty of care for all employees within the workplace, and what may occur if the employee in question returns to work in order to be paid for this time.
Furthermore, any Organisations who may have employees traveling for work should remind employees to be mindful and strictly adhere to the travel advice given by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Some key recommendations for the workplace:
- Deep cleaning of offices if any employee has been in an area where there is an outbreak of the disease.
- Adopt basic levels of precaution, including developing a business continuity plan and briefing staff on that plan.
- Ensure there are hand sanitizers in the workplace.
- Good hand hygiene in the workplace simply by washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub.
Prepared by Adare Human Resource Management on 26th February 2020
For further information or advice, please contact your designated experienced HR Client Manager in
Adare Human Resource Management – 01 561 3594 / 061 363 805 or firstname.lastname@example.org