Businesses bear the brunt of the winter bug

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16 Jan 2013

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London 21 December 2012 - A sharp increase in Norovirus questions from worried bosses has led to HR and health & safety expert Croner issuing urgent guidance on managing the situation in the workplace. Croner receives a large number of telephone calls at this time of year relating to seasonal illnesses. This has rocketed in recent weeks as the Norovirus bug has spread rapidly. Louise Barnes, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner, says: “With the winter vomiting bug already affecting over 800,000 people in the UK, it clearly is a great cause for concern for employers. We have had a large number of calls ranging from how to contain an outbreak to managing absence. Many organisations have seen a large percentage of their workforce affected, which in industries such as retail or hospitality causes a massive problem at their busiest time of year. “From an employment perspective Croner strongly recommends that employers remind themselves of their sickness absence and sick pay policies and ensure that they apply them consistently and fairly. “For bosses who are dealing with employees that are being advised to stay off, perhaps because they are living with someone who has recently had the illness, or have been advised by a medical practitioner to wait 24-48 hours before returning to work, we recommend that the employee should cover their absence with self-certification as this would be preferable to medical suspension. “Generally speaking absence due to Norovirus should be treated in much the same way as any other short-term absence.” Fiona Burns, Health & Safety Consultant at Croner, says: “The Norovirus is easily spread by contact with an affected person, particularly through their hands. You can also catch it via contaminated food or drink or by infected surfaces or objects. So when you are preparing your in-house Christmas parties make sure you stick to strict hygiene rules. “To prevent and reduce the impact of the winter sickness bug in the workplace, employers should encourage staff to wash hands frequently and provide antibacterial hand gel in public areas such as a reception. Think twice before you give your colleague a Christmas kiss or shake their hand. “All surfaces that an infected person has touched should be disinfected and it is a good idea to regularly clean high traffic areas and items such as door handles.” Croner provides expert information and advice for employers on a wide range of employment and health and safety issues. Contact us on 0800 634 1700 for further information on our products and services.

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