Monday, March 2nd, 2020

The continued spread of Coronavirus COVID-19, and the recent and widely reported increase in European cases raises the prospect of a worldwide pandemic. The Government has previously issued advice which focuses on travellers returning from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia or Macau. More recently, however, that advice has been widened to include Iran, specific areas of Italy and specific areas of the Republic of South Korea as well as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. We have seen in the past few days an explosion of cases in Italy, a hotel put into lockdown in Tenerife and cases throughout most of mainland Europe which bring COVID-19 much closer to home.

At the moment the virus is relatively contained in the UK, but if the number of cases increase or we start to see quarantine zones set up in the UK around towns and cities such as in China and Italy, then businesses are going to be presented with some very difficult, and potentially expensive, decisions. How should you deal with staff that show symptoms, or should you close an entire business?
It might be tempting for small businesses to try to keep going, or to allow staff that are showing symptoms to continue working, but this could lead to greater problems. Government advice is currently that businesses should not close and that if there is a suspected or confirmed case, then Public Health England will work with the business and make recommendations, but this could still lead to a high staff absence if a number of staff have to self-isolate.
Given these questions, planning and disaster recovery has never been a more important issue for UK businesses. Whilst larger multi-national and UK businesses will have disaster recovery plans, and the ability to deal with the disruption that higher than normal staff absence might cause, smaller businesses, from sole traders to SME’s, will be less resilient or able to absorb staff absence or the threat of closure for a period to time. All disaster recovery plans could be put to the test in the event that entire offices or business premises have to close but those without any plan in place could be even harder hit. So what have you done to prepare? Below are some questions that you may want to consider:
At the moment it is impossible to say how widely the virus will spread in the UK, and so the best thing businesses can do is plan to be as ready as they can to respond to an outbreak.

  • Do you have a disaster recovery plan? Some businesses may have considered what they do in the event of a fire or flood but it is unlikely that they will have considered what they do with
    a medical emergency such as Coronavirus. Have you got a way of servicing your clients or customers if your some members of staff cannot attend work? Could you outsource any of your
    work to other businesses temporarily to ensure continuity? Can staff members who are well albeit in preventative quarantine work remotely? Is there a way of accessing your IT
    infrastructure away from your place of business?
  • Do you have any insurance that will cover you for business interruption? Some business insurance may cover you in the event that your business cannot operate for a period of time.
    This may be fundamental to the success of your company if you cannot open or your staff are unable to work. Check your policy to ensure what is covered as it may not cover the situation
    if it worsens and is declared by the World Health Organisation as a pandemic.

At the moment it is impossible to say how widely the virus will spread in the UK, and so the best thing businesses can do is plan to be as ready as they can to respond to an outbreak

Blog By Pearson Hards Solicitors

020 8949 9500 [email protected]

You can see the Government Advice for Employers and Businesses here

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