Managing viruses and infections in the workplace can be difficult, particularly when employees are travelling to overseas locations. With the recent outbreak of Coronavirus, we’ve been getting a lot of queries around how to manage employees returning from overseas.

While it is important for employers to take all necessary precautions to prevent any viruses or infections from spreading in the workplace, it is also worth noting there are many measures taken by the government currently to protect the general population from the threat of Coronavirus.

So how can businesses minimise the risk of these viruses and infections from spreading in the workplace?

Ensuring your team understand that they should take sick leave when unwell is key. Even if following a period of annual leave. Having a workplace culture where people feel pressure to come to work when sick is potentially exposing more of your team to illness.

Employees travelling overseas either for work or holiday should check for any travel warnings or requirements prior to travel. If an employee has travelled to a destination where there has been a virus outbreak, the employer can request that the employee obtains an appropriate medical clearance prior to their return to work. Any requirements will need to be clearly communicated to the employee prior to their scheduled return to work.

Who pays for the cost of a medical assessment?

If the employer requires an employee to provide a medical clearance prior to their return to work, the employer is responsible for covering the cost of the medical appointment.

Can an employee be stood down if they have potentially been exposed to viruses or infections?

The employer may require the employee to remain on a period of leave until the employee is able to provide a medical clearance confirming that they are fit to return to work. The employee may be required to use a period of personal leave until they are able to provide a medical clearance. If the employee does not have sufficient personal leave to cover the period, they may request to utilise annual leave during this period. If the employee has exhausted paid leave entitlements, the employee may be required to take unpaid leave until evidence has been provided confirming that they are fit to return to work.

What about vaccinations?

It is important to determine that if employees are travelling to certain regions, whether they have a requirement to be vaccinated. Where an employee is required to travel for business purposes, the employer will be responsible for any costs associated with the required vaccinations. If the employee is travelling for pleasure and not for business purposes, the employee is responsible for managing any required vaccinations and the associated costs.

Employers should also consider whether it may be beneficial to offer employees vaccinations such as flu vaccinations in the workplace to provide some protection against flu viruses that may be brought into the workplace by travelling employees.

Can employers contact employees on holiday leave?

Employers should ensure that employees can remain contactable wherever possible when on a period of leave so that any return to work requirements can be communicated to the employee prior to their scheduled return to work date. It is also important to have the correct emergency contact details for employees in the event that the employer needs to make contact with the employee’s emergency contact.

If you need guidance or support in managing the effect of any potential viruses, infections or other illnesses on your workplace, Cornerstone HR can help you. Contact our specialist team for a non-obligation chat today.