Our Ref: HSR/1/3
Head Office Circular: NP/43/20
3rd March 2020
To: The Secretary
ALL SHIPPING BRANCHES
ALL REGIONAL COUNCILS
CORONAVIRUS - COVID-19
Further to Head Office Circular NP/023/20 dated 3rd February 2020, I can inform members that I wrote to the Secretary of State at the Department for Transport (DfT) expressing my concerns that there did not appear to be clear and consistent advice on Coronavirus across the transport sector.
I then wrote to the Secretary of State for a second time last week because of the continued lack of clear guidance, following an incident at Leeds Station:
Following this incident LNER issued guidance to their staff.
The Secretary of State eventually responded to our letters:
I understand your concerns about this serious issue and your observations have been noted.
You may be aware that on 14th February Public Health England issued transport sector specific guidance on COVID-19, including general precautions for staff and guidance on the assessment and management of arrivals into the UK. This guidance is available through the Public Health England website (www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-staff-in-the-transport-sector) and has been highlighted to transport operators. We would encourage transport employers to take heed of this guidance. (My emphasis).
My Department is working closely with the rest of Government as this situation progresses; as part of this we will continue to stay in close contact with transport providers to share information and guidance as appropriate.
Network Rail has now informed the RMT as follows:
• We have issued a communication to all employees regarding travel to China and affected areas with highlights noted below:
• In the last 14 days any employee returning from China and affected areas or who has come in close contact with anyone returning from China and affected areas in last 14 days, and/or who has had close contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19 in last 14 days should self-quarantine and where possible work from home, where they have the tools/ability to do so. This period of self-quarantine will be classified as paid leave. (My emphasis).
• Any employee displaying symptoms during the quarantine period are advised to call 111 and the normal Network Rail sickness policy will apply. Evidence for self-quarantine will be required. In addition, employees returning from affected areas who are displaying symptoms will be self-quarantined as per the advice from the NHS and the normal Network Rail sickness policy will apply.
• Any planned business travel to China or countries that have been affected by COVID-19 must be approved by a member of the Executive Leadership Team.
• Good hand hygiene is being promoted as advised by PHE to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. In addition – generic posters, hand sanitisers and tissues will be supplied where appropriate.
• In line with Public Health England (PHE) guidelines, we are not currently promoting the use of standard masks as this has currently only been recommended for those within the healthcare profession due to the level of risk posed.
• Several avenues for support and information are being provided to employees and line managers and we are continuously reviewing the content and updating the site and information packs as appropriate.
I will be writing to all employers confirming that Network Rail’s position in this regard is followed. This position has already been adopted by Merseyrail, which has issued a communication to all employees identical in nature to the approach of Network Rail.
The question of the wider issues around coronavirus is being considered by the RMT National Executive Committee and further advice on the potential employment-related aspects of this matter may be issued.
A Circular with additional maritime sector-specific information is being issued to all Shipping Branches.
Please make the contents of this Circular available to all appropriate members.