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What is Monkeypox?

24th May, 2022

There have been 57 confirmed cases of Monkeypox in the UK in recent weeks.

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection most common in remote parts of Central and West Africa. The disease, first found in monkeys, does not tend to spread easily between people but can be transmitted through close physical contact. The symptoms are usually mild and most people recover in a few weeks. The main symptoms are a rash which starts on the face, then spreads to the rest of the body, a high temperature and aches.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have set out guidance for those with or who have had direct contact with a confirmed case, advising a 21-day isolation period. Contacts are also advised not to travel and to avoid contact with immunosuppressed people, pregnant women, and children under 12.

What can employers do if an employee has monkeypox?

As with the current covid guidance, the UKHSA guidance is not mandatory and therefore anyone who has had contact with a positive case is recommended to follow the guidance but does not legally have to follow the isolation rule. However, employers owe a duty to its staff to provide a safe working environment and as with any infectious disease, employers should consider the health and safety of their staff and consider their policies with regards to those who have caught it, or have been exposed to it, to avoid entering the premises until the infectious period is over.

We would strongly recommend that employers review the current guidance on self-isolation and to undertake a risk assessment to assess the threat to the business, especially if there are cases in the local area, or if the workplace requires close contact between staff.  The risk assessment should also take into account any vulnerable people in the workplace who may be more at risk if they contract monkeypox.  Employers should consider what their policy is and communicate this to their staff.

If a member of staff does contract monkeypox or has been in contact, employers may wish to put in place the same procedures and course of action that they have adopted with covid and/or introduce a separate and different process for monkeypox, taking into account the outcome of the risk assessment. Regardless of whether an employee feels ill, consider if they can work from home and it would be advisable to encourage this for the full 21-day period in line with the government guidance. If they cannot work from home, but have symptoms, they can of course receive contractual or statutory sick pay (if eligible).

Employers should keep up to date with any changes in relation to the government guidance on monkeypox.

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