New workplace guidance on monkeypox

As more is discovered about the monkeypox virus, it is important that workplace reps and branches keep informed in order to support members and keep workplaces safe.


Monkeypox is caused by a virus in the same family of viruses as smallpox, although it is much less severe. It is a rare infection.

UNISON has produced a guide for branches so that they can discuss monkeypox with employers to ensure that appropriate support in terms of guidance for staff, appropriate PPE provision and full sick pay can be put in place so anyone that contracts monkeypox does not suffer financial detriment.

Only a small number of people in the UK have had monkeypox and the risk remains low. In the UK, there have been a total of 3,340 cases confirmed since May 2022. Most of these were diagnosed in England (3,191). 

However, there may be many workers who are concerned about the spread of the virus, and whose health is at risk.

Anyone who comes into close contact with someone who has monkeypox could potentially get the virus. Monkeypox spreads through close skin-to-skin contact and also when someone touches fabrics – such as clothing, bedding, or towels – which have been used by someone with the virus, or from the coughs or sneezes of a person with monkeypox when they’re close.  

Donna Rowe-Merriman, national secretary for business, community environment, added: “The government has been slow to react in providing clear guidance for workers and their employers on this issue across a wide range of sectors.

“UNISON’s new bargaining guide delivers clarity to enable members to work safely. There remains serious questions to be asked in relation to government’s handling of the vaccine rollout.”

The first symptoms of monkeypox include:

  • a high temperature
  • a headache
  • muscle aches
  • backache
  • swollen glands
  • shivering (chills)
  • exhaustion
  • joint pain

A rash usually appears 1 to 5 days after the first symptoms. The rash often begins on the face, then spreads to other parts of the body.

(From NHS webpage on monkeypox)