Advice has been given to employers to conduct risk assessments after the rising number of Monkeypox cases in the UK. Symptoms of monkeypox can include headache, muscle aches, fever and exhaustion, followed by a rash commonly found on hands, arms, feet and legs. There have been 172 confirmed monkeypox cases in the UK, including 4 in Scotland, 2 in Northern Ireland and 1 in wales. Many countries in Europe and North America have also seen increasing case rates.
It is advised that people who are considered high-risk contacts are to isolate themselves at home for 21 days, which may mean that they cannot work. As monkeypox is a relatively mild condition, it is possible staff may be able to work from home for at least some of their isolation time, providing they feel well enough. As monkeypox is a relatively mild condition, it is possible staff may be able to work from home for at least some of their isolation time, providing they feel well enough. Although self-isolation is only advised and not mandatory, employers should encourage affected workers to work from home if possible, and if not, they should follow usual sick pay policies. As most symptoms clear up within 14-21 days, they would receive statutory sick pay or full sick pay, depending on their employment contract.
A significant proportion of confirmed cases have been identified among the LGBTQA community, especially homosexual men. People in this group have been advised to look out for symptoms, especially if they recently had a new sexual partner. Advice has been given to Employers to look out for discrimination towards employees in the LGBTQA community or African employees, as Monkeypox is usually only found in remote parts of central and West Africa. Employers also need to be careful not to assume that staff are likely to bring the virus into the workplace due to misinformation being spread on social media.
Employers should consider how they may be able to minimise the risk of monkeypox spreading in the workplace. Although monkeypox isn’t generally passed through the air, some colleagues may be concerned if they are aware another employee with a confirmed case is working closely with them. It also may be required to make adjustments to minimise the risk to pregnant or immunosuppressed people. Those with exposure to infectious materials should consider being excluded from work for the time being. Again, working from home or moving the employee to another duty could be an option.
Employers will have to decide whether close contacts with a confirmed case will have to isolate or come into work as normal. If they are required to stay at home, this should be on full pay. If they are not required to isolate, employers should consider adjustments to where they sit or work. Employees claiming to have close contact should be able to provide some evidence of their contact with the contact system after a confirmed case has been notified to the contact tracing system. Companies that do not require employees with close contacts should conduct risk assessments and put safeguards to protect other employees and vulnerable people.
Although the virus seems to be a low risk to the general population, it is advised employers should be prepared in case the situation is to change. Experts say it poses a very low risk to the public and is not as easily transmissible as Covid 19 is. Monkeypox is not another Covid, and recovery from this virus is fully expected. However, things can change quickly, so it’s essential to be prepared. When caring for patients with monkeypox, confirmed or suspected, health workers, are advised to implement standard contact and droplet infection control precautions. This includes all workers in a healthcare setting, including cleaners and laundry staff who may be exposed to the virus on bedding, towels or personal belongings.
Contact us at Beagle HR for support if you need help with employees isolating and working from home.