Oil giant Chevron has asked 300 staff at a London office to work from home as a precaution against coronavirus.
Chevron took the step after one of its staff reported flu-like symptoms after returning from a country where there have been cases of the disease.
The staff at the Westferry Circus office at Canary Wharf will continue to work from home “for the time being”, pending tests on the employee.
Coronavirus has caused a number of deaths around the world.
The staff at the Canary Wharf office mainly engage in downstream oil and gas products trading.
The employee concerned spent the weekend skiing in Italy, a coronavirus hotspot, then returned to work on Monday. They started feeling unwell and did not go to work on Tuesday.
Following NHS advice, the employee reported to hospital to be tested for Covid-19 and is awaiting the results.
The firm said: “Chevron continues to monitor the situation very closely, utilising the guidance of international and local health authorities.
“Our primary concern is the health and safety of our employees and we are taking precautionary measures to reduce their risk of exposure.
“Consequently, we have requested that our colleagues, based at our Westferry Circus office in London, work from home for the time being. It is our policy to not provide details of our employees.”
The staff will continue to work from home while the firm waits for guidance from doctors.
Many other firms have taken precautions to protect staff from the risk of catching the coronavirus.
BP, for example has delayed all non-essential business travel to China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Singapore until further notice, and staff who have been to affected areas and are showing flu-like symptoms have been told not to come to work.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs has told staff which have returned from affected areas to self isolate even if they show no symptoms.
Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, said firms must follow official government guidance.
“In a fast-evolving situation, businesses will be mindful of the potential risks. The health of employees must be their first consideration, as well as the potential impact on their operations,” he added.
Coronavirus has caused widespread disruption around the world.
This particular coronavirus infection, which can cause severe lung disease, started in China and has spread to 27 other countries, including the UK.
Based on data from 44,000 patients with this coronavirus, the World Health Organization says:
- 81% develop mild symptoms
- 14% develop severe symptoms
- 5% become critically ill.
On Tuesday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that Britons returning from quarantined Italian towns should isolate themselves, even if they have no symptoms.
Workers who are ill are entitled to statutory sick pay. But the law says that if you stay away from work but aren’t sick, you may not get paid.