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Council urges businesses to prevent workplace COVID transmissions

As detected infection rates increase in many parts of the UK, Horsham District Council is asking local businesses to ensure that they are taking appropriate steps to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in their workplaces.

Workplace outbreaks have been caused by transmission in shared social areas such as canteens, kitchens and tea rooms. It is vital that COVID-Secure measures such as social distancing are put in place in these areas as well as on the ‘shop floor’.

Staff getting together socially in larger groups outside of work must also be discouraged for the time being, as we continue to reduce our social contact as much as possible with people not in our households or support bubbles, in order to help stop the spread.

Horsham District Council Cabinet Member for Community Matters and Wellbeing Cllr Tricia Youtan said:

“Nationally, we have observed some concerning trends in workplace outbreaks recently, and whilst in the Horsham District we have fared well overall in containing the virus, it would be a great shame, having got local people back into their workplaces, if the guidelines had to be reversed and they had to go back to working from home.

“We would therefore urge both employers and employees to continue to be vigilant and follow the advice given in support of everyone’s efforts to prevent further workplace and workforce transmission.”

Travel to and from the workplace is another area being highlighted for concern, especially where employees car share, as the potential for a workplace outbreak increases in line with the number of people who travel in the same car.

Employers should be aware of this as a significant source of transmission, but give particular consideration to employees’ individual needs and circumstances, However, we recommend that car sharing is discouraged for now.

Where car sharing is unavoidable, then simple measures can be put into place to reduce the risk of spread, such as the use of face coverings, opening windows for ventilation, and if possible, arranging the seating layout to maximise the distance between people.

The Council is also stressing the continued importance of people not going to work if they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19.  Staff are being reminded that they are entitled to take paid-time off in these situations and smaller businesses may be able to claim back Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) using the Government’s rebate scheme: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-pay-paid-to-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19.

Predominantly of concern are agency workers or those in the “gig economy” who may be incentivised to break self-isolation if no suitable pay arrangements are in place.  The SSP Rebate Scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including part-time employees as well as those on agency contracts, flexible or zero-hour contracts and fixed-term contracts.

Cllr Youtan added:

“We would encourage all employers to offer full pay during sick leave where possible, so that no one is disadvantaged by complying with the self-isolation rules.”

The Government has published updated and simplified COVID-Secure guidance available at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19.  For further information you should contact the Council’s Environmental Health & Licensing team on 01403 215415 or through publichealth.licensing@horsham.gov.uk.

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