Coronavirus and the Workplace

Year Published: 2020

With a higher number of new cases of the Coronavirus now reported outside of China than within, there is an increased risk that an employee might have been to an area affected by the Coronavirus. This can potentially cause confusion for employers. To provide guidance, we have looked at three main questions below.

Should I Pay Employees Who Self-Isolate?

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, has sent guidance to UK employers informing them that staff who have been asked to self-isolate are entitled to take the time as sick leave.

However, there is no legal right for an employee to be paid sick pay if they self-isolate and are not actually sick. It is then up to employers to use their discretion at this point. Employers can also consider alternative options, such as working from home (if possible) or consider allowing the employee to take some, or all, of the time as annual leave.

Furthermore, if an employee rejects the advice to self-isolate and returns to work as normal, their employer can ask them to remain at home. In these circumstances the employee would be entitled to be paid in full, although again they can be asked to work from home if possible.

If an employee has self-isolated and has become ill, they should be paid in line with the employer’s sick policy.

Should I Pay an Employee Who Has to Stay at Home to Care for a Family Member?

Potentially, schools could close, like Burbage Primary School in Derbyshire, and parents may need time off to care for their children at short notice. If this is the case, this would be dependant’s leave. For that reason, employees should be allowed to take the time off but this time would be unpaid, unless the employer has a specific policy in place providing pay. Employers can again look at flexible options instead, including working from home or annual leave if possible.

What Can Employers Do to Minimise the Risk of Coronavirus?

Employers should make themselves aware of any infected destinations and postpone any non-essential employee travel to those countries. If an employee has been to an affected area, then they may be advised to self-isolate. Employers may also want to consider asking the employees to do so in these circumstances.

The government has provided advice for businesses on travel to affected areas and it is worth taking the time to go through this information. This information should also be provided to  employees who may have booked holidays to any of the infected areas stated.

Employers should also monitor the ongoing situation and make contingency plans should the business need to close. To reduce this possibility, it is worth considering the provision of extra hygiene facilities and taking note of the World Health Organisation’s advice on how to avoid transmission.

For further advice on employment-related matters in relation to the Coronavirus, please contact our Employment team on 0161 475 7676 or email [email protected].

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