Number of cases
As of 9am on 11 March 2020, 27,476 people have been tested in the UK, of which 27,020 were confirmed negative and 456 were confirmed as positive. Six patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.
Government Support for Businesses
Measures to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus outbreak include:
- Statutory sick pay for “all those who are advised to self-isolate” even if they have not displayed symptoms
- Business rates for shops, cinemas, restaurants and music venues in England with a rateable value below £51,000 suspended for a year
- A £500m “hardship fund” to be given to local authorities in England to help vulnerable people in their areas
- A “temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme” for banks to offer loans of up to £1.2m to support small and medium-sized businesses
- The government will meet costs for businesses with fewer than 250 employees of providing statutory sick pay to those off work because of coronavirus
- Plans to make it quicker and easier to get benefits for those on zero hours contracts
- Benefit claimants who have been advised to stay at home will not have to physically attend job centres
What if your employees contract the virus?
According to a government press release issued 3 March 2020, up to one-fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks of the present outbreak. Obviously, you will not want infected employees in the workplace. You will need to review your contracts of employment with affected staff to determine your liability to cover sick pay.
Statutory sick pay (SSP) amounts to £94.25 per week (2019-20) and for staff who qualify, can be paid for a maximum period of 28 weeks. If you have payroll software the management of SSP is normally included.
You may also benefit from contingency planning. How can you reorganise tasks if key staff are incapacitated? Spending a little time to plan for these possibilities may save you head-aches should staff be unable to work.
Have you considered Home Working arrangements?
Is it possible to organise a home working scheme for staff? This will not be feasible for all staff, production workers or retail staff for example, but staff that spend their days in front of a computer screen could be supplied with a laptop and work from home.
Where appropriate, there are a wealth of online meeting services that could be utilised to keep in touch with home workers.
Do you depend on the services of sub-contractors?
If yes, you may want to organise a list of alternative contractors you can call on if needed. This should help to minimise disruption if your present sub-contractors are unable to work.
How secure are your supply lines?
You may want to consider sourcing alternative suppliers if your present supply lines are adversely affected by the flu. China, as we know, supplies a growing number of components many of which find their way into British made goods.
Should you be rethinking your business plans?
It is difficult to gauge the possible spread of the Coronavirus but if epidemic conditions arise there is a real possibility that we may see a downturn in global, and therefore UK, economic activity. This, combined with any Brexit fallout, may indicate that the time is right to rethink your business plans for 2020.