Coronavirus: all businesses should take steps to ensure they are prepared

Some businesses have felt the effects of coronavirus since the outbreak began, but the time has come for all businesses to take steps to ensure the resilience of their business and the safety of their staff.

PLEASE NOTE: The information in this article was correct at the time of writing, but the situation involving coronavirus is changing all the time. For the latest information and guidance for employers and businesses, please see the government's official guidelines.

The effect of coronavirus (COVID-19) has been felt around the world in business, sport and people's personal lives and wellbeing.

While some businesses would have been feeling the effects of coronavirus since earlier in the year, namely through supply chain challenges, the time has come for all businesses to take steps to ensure the resilience of their business and the safety of their staff in a variety of ways.

Duty of care to staff

Employers have a duty to look after the health and wellbeing of their staff. In terms of coronavirus, this can include:

  • Advising staff to follow government advice if travelling to or from Category 1 or 2 countries. This may require self-isolation in some scenarios.
  • Monitoring staff’s upcoming holiday destinations for any coronavirus alerts, in order to be prepared once staff return.
  • Providing extra soaps and hand sanitisers/gels if possible, and reminding staff of public health advice on washing hands regularly and avoiding bad hygiene habits (employers could print off posters for the office/workplace with this advice)
  • Advising against handshakes in an effort to lower the risk of infection (we have implemented a ‘no-handshake’ policy for the Buckinghamshire Business Expo on March 6th). Contemplate if this is necessary for your business.

Home working

If businesses have the capability, they may offer staff the opportunity to work from home in order to minimise the risk of individual’s catching and spreading the virus.

Research from Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership estimates that the structure of the Buckinghamshire economy could mean that it is more resilient to disruption caused by coronavirus than other parts of the country. 43% of Buckinghamshire businesses operate in sectors where staff are likely to be able to work from home, compared to 36% nationally (source: Bucks LEP estimate based on UK Business Count data, ONS, 2019).

Statutory sick pay

The government announced that workers will receive statutory sick pay from their first day off work, in a bid to contain coronavirus.

In response to this decision, Jonathan Lilley, employment lawyer at Blaser Mills Law, said: “The Prime Minister’s decision that workers will be entitled to statutory sick pay from the first day off work, not the fourth, to help contain coronavirus is a crucial development for employers to be aware of. It creates the potential for conflict between employers and employees, as naturally bosses will focus on their own obligations and control over their workforces, and will need to consider the reasons put forward by employees as to why self-isolation is appropriate.

“Employers need to think carefully about a plan for dealing with workforces affected by the virus, develop a clear way of communicating that plan and must strike the right balance between keeping their businesses running, doing enough to contain additional spread and ensuring appropriate ‘homeworking’ arrangements are in place for those who need to isolate themselves away. Clearly, in some sectors, working from home is already commonplace, so anyone able to switch to those arrangements for the isolation period will be able to carry on working and will have no need for sick pay – statutory or otherwise.

“It’s also important to note that, whilst the legislation will provide some assistance to those eligible for statutory sick pay, it won’t be of any assistance to those who are not entitled to it anyway, for example workers in the ‘gig economy’, the self-employed etc.”

Business insurance

The government announced that it would declare coronavirus as a “notifiable disease”, meaning that insurance companies may pay out to cover any related business losses.

It is worth noting that the Association of British Insurers has said that: "Standard business insurance policies are designed and priced to cover standard risks, not those that are very unlikely, such as the effects of Covid-19.”

It’s advisable to keep an eye out for any other coronavirus-related legislation changes that will affect businesses.

Advice for customers and clients

If you have customers and clients who visit your business on site, you may wish to institute a policy requesting that people stay away if they have recently returned from Category 1 or 2 countries. This may require self-isolation in some scenarios.

Buckinghamshire Business First has advised this for anyone using our Business Hubs or meeting rooms.

Building business resilience

Coronavirus is another issue that businesses need to plan for and around, much like bad weather, cyber security or changes to trading relationships and legislation due to the UK leaving the EU.

Read some of our previous articles on building business resilience:

The Buckinghamshire Business First membership is full of knowledgeable businesses that have expertise, products and services to help businesses in myriad ways. Remember to regularly check the member directory for businesses across all sectors.

Supply chain resilience

Ensuring the resilience of supply chains is crucial for businesses at the best of times, and especially so when challenges like coronavirus come along.

Buckinghamshire Business First is aware of businesses whose orders from overseas have been disrupted due to the virus and have had to implement contingency measures.

Research from Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership estimates that approximately 780 Buckinghamshire firms import goods from China, to the value of around £417m a year (source: Bucks LEP estimate based on 2018 HMRC data). Disrupted production within China could lead to these firms needing to source goods from alternative markets, potentially at higher prices.

This may be a good time to reflect on the general resilience of your supply chains and whether this is the time to consider onshoring.

Advice from relevant organisations

Read advice on coronavirus from the following organisations:

Contact us for general business support enquiries

Following government and pubic health advice is best practice for businesses when it comes to coronavirus. However, if you have any specific business support-related queries, including those to do with business resilience, contact our Business Support Team: 01494 927130 /

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