Government warns that one-fifth could take sick leave due to Coronavirus

A government report has highlighted that a fifth of UK employees could be sick at the same time during peak outbreak periods of Covid-19 (Coronavirus).

A report titled Coronavirus: Action plan, published on 3 March 2020 by the Department of Health and Social Care highlighted how the recent outbreak of Coronavirus could affect UK businesses.

The report stated that, although data is still emerging, in a ‘stretching scenario’ this virus could result in one-fifth of employees being absent from work simultaneously, although this could vary for individual businesses.

The UK government has advised businesses to build their own resilience by reviewing their continuity plans and following the advice for employers available on GOV.UK.

The report stated: “The department’s officials across the globe are already working with UK businesses on the ground to relay public health advice, and provide practical and concrete support to the firm.”

Matt Hancock, secretary of state for health and social care, added: “We need employers to prioritise the welfare of their staff.”

Rupert Morrison, economist and chief executive officer at OrgVue, said: “The spread of Coronavirus is yet another rising tide of uncertainty for British businesses. Just like Brexit, the virus has serious implications for workforces across the country and for the UK’s overall productivity.

“How should businesses respond? Rather than choosing to ‘wait and see’, businesses need to be taking a proactive approach to mitigating risks. The sharpest business leaders will know that if large swathes of their workforce are off sick, or their factories have to close, it’s vital to plan and model different scenarios, before an outbreak like this hits. If businesses haven’t already started, there’s no time like the present.”

Jamie Mackenzie, director at Sodexo Engage, added: “Health must come before business and [employers] will be doing all that they can to protect their employees and their families. The guidelines set out today are clear: we need to hope for the best but prepare for the worst and employers would be prudent to ensure they have sensible plans in place to limit any impact on their employees if the virus continues to spread.

“By encouraging working from home where possible, using Skype instead of meeting [face-to-face] and putting a stop to non-essential travel, employers can play their part in limiting the spread of the virus. Technology has made it possible to continue to do business without the need to be ‘present’ in the office, and by utilising this option, we can all play our part in protecting ourselves and reducing the spread of the virus.”