• Coronavirus: A Guide for Employers – Part 1
Coronavirus: A guide for Employers - Part 1
In January this year, we saw the outbreak of Coronavirus in Wuhan, China, but little did we know at the time the impact that this was going to have on the rest of the world and here in the UK.
The number of cases in the UK is continuing to rise and the World Health Organisation has declared Coronavirus a global health emergency. It is therefore important that employers have a plan in place for what they should do if an employee risks bringing the virus into the workplace.
Imagine the scenario where an employee comes into work showing the symptoms of Coronavirus. Is your business prepared for this? Do you know your obligations as an employer in respect of whether an employee should be entitled to sick pay if they (a) have Coronavirus or (b) are in quarantine or self-isolation? This guide will help you implement a policy for this.
Sick Pay when someone is off work due to Coronavirus
Additionally, where an employee is not sick, but a doctor has advised an employee to not go into work and to self-isolate, they should receive Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) for the period they are off work. The doctor should put this into a written notice, however, in practice this may not always happen. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, also recently announced plans to ensure employees will be entitled to SSP from the first day they are off sick from work rather than the fourth day, as is normally the case, as they should not be penalised for isolating themselves to protect others from getting the virus.
Sick Pay when an Employee is told to self-isolate
Sick Pay when an Employee refuses to attend work
Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service' (ACAS) advice in this circumstance would be for an employer to try to reassure the employee to listen to any concerns that an employee may have and highlight any measures that are being put in place in the workplace to prevent or minimise any spread of infection.
Again an employer could also suggest that the employee could work from home or alternatively could offer flexible working if possible. Additionally, an agreement could be made that an employee takes some annual leave or unpaid leave although the employer is not obliged to suggest or agree to this. ACAS does highlight however, that if an employee still refuses to attend work unreasonably then the employer can take disciplinary action. Of course, an employer may also wish to consider the effect of fear of catching Coronavirus can do to an employee’s mental health. If an employee takes time off for stress or anxiety as a result of their concerns regarding Coronavirus then the employee would be entitled to sick pay under the employer’s normal procedures.
Perhaps the best advice to give to employers at the moment is that if you are in doubt regarding your obligations to employees and sick pay entitlement then get in touch with the Blackadders Employment Team who are on hand to deal with your queries.
Fiona Knox, Trainee Solicitor
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