Posted in : HR Updates on 7 January 2013
Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services
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Helen O'Brien writes:

A sharp increase in Norovirus questions from worried bosses has led to Croner issuing urgent guidance on managing the situation in the workplace.

Croner, part of global information services business Wolters Kluwer, receives a large number of telephone calls around Christmas and New Year relating to seasonal illnesses. This has rocketed in recent weeks as the Norovirus bug has rapidly spread.

Louise Barnes, Senior Employment Consultant at Croner, advises:

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, advises:

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 any parties or social events 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 New Year's 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.

Find out more about The Norovirus, symptoms and treatment: 

This article is correct at 04/11/2015

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services

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