Charities draw up plans to deal with coronavirus outbreak

Major charity employers are drawing up plans to deal with the possible effects of the coronavirus outbreak on their workforce. 

Out of a group of the largest charity employers in the UK contacted by Third Sector, none said they had yet been forced to take drastic measures such as closing offices or reducing services to combat the spread of Covid-19. 

The number of confirmed cases in the UK rose to 163 today, according to government figures, as worldwide numbers approached 100,000. 

A spokeswoman for Marie Stopes International, which employs more than 10,500 people worldwide, according to its most recent annual report, said it was allowing only “business critical” international travel. 

“Where travel is deemed critical, certain risk factors will still be taken into consideration before formal approval for travel is provided,” she said. “Employees are also asked not to travel if they are ill or have an underlying health condition.”

She said the charity had allowed employees to make “reasonable adjustments to working routines” where appropriate and had developed resources to inform staff about how best to protect themselves from the virus through hygienic practices. 

A spokesman for the disability charity Leonard Cheshire, which has 5,000 staff and 8,500 volunteers, said it had “robust plans in place to ensure we protect the health and wellbeing of our residents, people we support, staff and volunteers”.

He said the charity had established a working group some weeks ago and was “ensuring the infection control measures put in place by the charity are based on the situation at that time”. 

He added: “Guidance is being shared with service and programme managers, as well as other staff. Specific guidance has been shared in relation to visitors or staff who might have returned from specific countries recently.”

Sagar Sharma, director of policy and communications at Barnardo’s, said the charity was monitoring the situation closely and staff had the option to work remotely if there was a change to the official position on commuting. 

“We have ensured that all staff are informed and aware of relevant official advice on prevention and steps to take if they fall ill,” he said. 

A spokesman for the National Trust, which has more than 65,000 volunteers and about 9,000 year-round staff, plus a further 5,000 temporary staff during the summer months, said: “We are making contingency plans and working closely with other partner organisations to ensure we can respond to a range of scenarios in order to maintain normal business for as long as possible.

“We have also been asking all our staff and volunteers to follow advice on regular handwashing."

A spokeswoman for the British Heart Foundation said the charity was planning to continue with most of its events but was keeping the position under review. 

"We are keeping our staff and volunteers up to date with the latest health advice on the virus and have contingency plans in place in case the risk in the UK escalates," she said.

"Currently, we’re continuing with the majority of the charity’s planned activities and events, but we’re reviewing this on a daily basis.”

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