Is there any duty on employers to close their workplace during a flu pandemic or an infectious disease outbreak to prevent the spread of viruses such as the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

There is generally no requirement for employers to close their workplace during a flu pandemic or an infectious disease outbreak, but employers should check guidance from the Department of Health or the relevant public health body on a regular basis. Guidance for businesses from the Department of Health during previous threats such as the swine flu pandemic was that the primary focus of businesses should be on environmental, organisational and general hygiene measures to reduce the risk of transmission of flu.

Employers should consider putting in place a contingency plan that addresses business continuity in the event that the coronavirus (COVID-19) threat escalates and results in workplace closures. In particular, alternatives such as homeworking, working from different premises, lay-off and enforced holiday should be explored. Employers should review the extent to which their technology enables remote access via broadband or satellite connections where this would enable employees to work from home.