Keeping your workplace and business healthy

The novel coronavirus, known as Covid-19, has become a major source of uncertainty for global markets. Already there is widespread concern about it’s possible impact. There is still much to learn about the virus. Please remember medical experts around the world are on the case, and there is no need for businesses to panic.


Here at the TTF we will be monitoring the spread of the virus on behalf of our membership, and will be sharing the latest information and advice from experts to keep yourself, your employees, and customers feeling confident, assured, safe, healthy, and productive.

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways, which is caused by a virus called coronavirus.


The symptoms of coronavirus are a cough, a high temperature, and shortness of breath, but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu.


The UK Government’s advice is now to limit contact where possible, including working from home and avoiding public places. If you show symptoms, stay away from public places (self-isolate), and consult the 111 online coronavirus service or a medical professional.


To find out more about Covid-19, including answers to the most common questions about the virus, we suggest you use the NHS website. If you are concerned about any symptoms you may be showing, please contact NHS 111.


Need further advice on Covid-19? Call the NHS 111 line.

What should I do as a business

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Share the below advice with your employees.


Public Health England (PHE) recommends that the following general cold and flu precautions are taken to help prevent people from catching and spreading COVID-19:


  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • put used tissues in the bin straight away
  • wash your hands with soap and water often – use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell
  • clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean


Managing risks while travelling


Check the UK Government website if you are travelling to an affected area. Advice is in place for what to do if you have returned in the last 14 days from specified countries or areas and this is being updated on an ongoing basis.


This generally means that if you come from a destination which has containment measures in place, such as Wuhan in China, or certain areas of Italy, you should call NHS for advice and practice self-isolation as a pre-caution.


What to do if a member of staff or the public has recently been in your workplace 


In most cases there is no need to close the workplace or send other staff home at this point. However, if someone becomes unwell in the workplace and has travelled to China or other affected countries, the unwell person should be removed to an area which is at least 2 metres away from other people.


If possible find a room or area where they can be isolated behind a closed door, such as a staff office. If it is possible to open a window, do so for ventilation.


The individual who is unwell should call NHS 111 from their mobile, or 999 if an emergency (if they are seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk) and explain which country they have returned from in the last 14 days and outline their current symptoms.


For contacts of a suspected case in the workplace, no restrictions or special control measures are required while laboratory test results for COVID19 are awaited. In particular, there is no need to close the workplace or send other staff home at this point.


Most possible cases turn out to be negative. Therefore, until the outcome of test results is known there is no action that the workplace needs to take.


If a confirmed case is identified in your workplace, the local Health Protection Team will provide the relevant staff with advice. These staff include:


  • any employee in close face-to-face or touching contact
  • talking with or being coughed on for any length of time while the employee was symptomatic
  • anyone who has cleaned up any bodily fluids
  • close friendship groups or workgroups
  • any employee living in the same household as a confirmed case


The UK Government is regularly updating information for businesses and employers on what actions they should take in relation to Covid-19. We will also continue to check and update this page for short insights.


We also advise our members to check if they qualify for relief as part of the Government’s Covid-19 Budget announcements, including the ability for SME’s to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay, among other measures.

How is Government supporting business

Since the onset and escalation of Covid-19, the Government has been seeking to respond to the needs of businesses disrupted by measures such as calls to stay at home.


The first set of these announcements came during the Budget on 12 March 2020. This included a £12bn response package, supporting public services such as the NHS, supporting the ability of SME’s to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay, and ensuring low-interest loans for businesses. This followed on from steps taken by the Bank of England to ease monetary policy, including cutting rates, offering cheap funding to banks, and lowering capital buffers to ensure lending continues.


As the scale of the epidemic and the impact of efforts to ‘flatten the curve’ become clear, the Government announced £350bn in further support for businesses on 17 March 2020. The most significant aspect of this announcement was the £330bn in state backed loans for all businesses through the banking system with the Bank of England. The fine print for these loans is still to be examined.


Below we’re highlighting the key areas of support from Government which businesses in the timber industry are most likely to find useful. You can find the full set of business relief measures on Gov.Uk.


Statutory sick pay relief package for SMEs


If you have fewer than 250 employees, you will be able to claim back statutory sick pay for any employee who has claimed statutory sick pay as a result of Covid-19. The mechanism for how this will work is still being arranged, however ensure you keep strong records during this time.


Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme


A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch next week to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments.


Support for businesses paying tax


All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. These arrangements are agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.


We will continue to update this page as we learn more about the delivery mechanisms for these forms of business relief.

How is this affecting the timber industry?

As our members are involved in international supply chains, there are some direct effects which we can already report on as a result of our regular surveys, mostly as a result of trading with China. This includes our respondents indicating:


  • Noticeable impact to their trading with China due to Covid-19, especially in the plywood and flooring product sectors.
  • There continue to be difficulties in obtaining container spaces, and this is leading to price increases.
  • Production in parts of China is yet to return to normal, with a one-month delay in production expected.
  • No companies are reporting any concerns about any downstream effects of Covid-19 on product quality or certification.
  • Around a quarter of the respondents are seeking alternative suppliers, and almost half  are planning to reduce contract orders.


We are continuing to monitor the situation and share information and advice across the industry, particularly for our members who regularly deal with China. Please do complete our survey so we can best help you.


Completing the below survey, even if you do not directly deal with China, is still helpful, as we seek to broaden our understanding of how Covid-19 is affecting the industry, and explore how we can best assist your business at this time.


Also make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter and join our LinkedIn Group, this will contain regular updates and the latest advice we are provided by health experts, your colleagues, and the UK Government.