Coronavirus (COVID-19): Advice for businesses

News article

Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak information for businesses in Northern Ireland

Coronavirus is a respiratory disease that was first identified in Wuhan City, China. Typical symptoms of coronavirus include a fever and a dry cough that may progress to severe pneumonia causing shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

Generally, coronavirus can cause more severe symptoms in people with weakened immune systems, older people, and those with long-term conditions like diabetes, cancer and chronic lung disease.

The Department of Health and Social Care is publishing daily figures for the UK. Test results from Northern Ireland are included in the UK figure.

Travel advice

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all non-essential travel overseas.

Read the FCO's foreign travel advice about travelling to a specific country or territory, including the latest information on coronavirus, safety and security, entry requirements and travel warnings.

Also, see FCO guidance for travelling overseas following the outbreak of coronavirus.

Preventing infection

To help reduce any potential spread of coronavirus, the Public Health Agency is urging people to follow the steps that they recommend for similar illnesses such as cold and flu. Following good hygiene practices in your business can help prevent the spread of infection.

Encourage employees to:

  • always carry tissues and use them to catch coughs or sneezes
  • cover the mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • bin the tissues and wash their hands afterwards
  • wash their hands often with soap and water
  • use sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands

See welfare facilities at work for information on the handwashing facilities you must provide.

Infections at work

Find guidance on diseases, infections and allergies in the workplace. This includes managing risks and handling an outbreak.

If there is an outbreak of infection or disease in your workplace, legally you must report this to the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland. See RIDDOR: Reporting an incident.

Coronavirus guidance for employers

Find answers to common employer questions on topics including, protecting the health and safety of staff, as well as what to do if an employee has to self-isolate and obligations around leave and sick pay.

See further guidance for employers on the coronavirus from the Labour Relations Agency (LRA).

Business continuity planning

Business continuity planning can help you maintain - or quickly resume - critical business functions following a potential incident of widespread infection. You may need to consider factors such as supply chain disruption, your duty of care towards employees and communications.

Planning can help you prepare for disruption, minimise the potential impact and return to 'business as usual' in the quickest possible time. See further guidance on how to carry out a business impact analysis and create a business continuity plan.

Rates relief

You may be eligible to apply for Hardship Rate Relief if your business is adversely affected by coronavirus - see Hardship Rate Relief.

Ratepayers who are experiencing difficulties in paying their rates can also consider applying for existing rate support schemes if you are eligible.

Alternatively, contact Land & Property Services (LPS) to discuss a payment arrangement - see what if I can't pay my rate bill?

The Budget 2020 announced some new measures in relation to business rates. These included a Business Rate Relief for small businesses and pubs and small business grant funding of £3,000 for all business in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) and Rural Rate Relief. These measures only apply to England. They do not apply to Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

The NI Executive is considering its overall Budget including how best to support businesses in NI, including help with business rates at this time. No decision has yet been taken on the Small Business Rate Relief scheme.

First published 13 March 2020