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Coronavirus Advice: For Employees and Employers

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Should I enter the workspace?

The government has advised individuals to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people immediately if they have travelled to the UK from certain countries in the last 14 days, sometimes even if they have no symptoms. The list of countries is updated every day at 2pm and can be found in the guidance. Individuals should then call 111 for advice on what to do next. This is an emergency NHS number.

What about sick pay?

If you have coronavirus, your normal sickness absence policy at work will apply and you should inform your employer in the usual way. You will receive any statutory sick pay or company sick pay in the normal way.

The Health Secretary has confirmed that if you are self-isolating on medical advice from your doctor or from calling 111, you will be treated as being on sick leave and may be eligible for statutory sick pay or company sick pay.

If you have been told to self-isolate on medical advice, your employer should be encouraging you not to come into work. If you are well, you should work remotely where possible.

You will not be eligible for statutory sick pay if you choose to self-isolate, for example because you are concerned you are going to catch coronavirus by travelling into work on the tube. If you refuse to attend work, it could result in disciplinary action from your employer.

Coronavirus Advice: For Employers

How can we best protect our employees?

It is good practice for employers to:

  • keep staff updated on the coronavirus outbreak and guidance and advice published by government and the NHS;
  • remind staff of relevant company policies, such as sickness/absence reporting, time off for dependants and working from home;
  • ensure staff and emergency contact details are up to date and any emergency communication/broadcast systems are tested and ready to use;
  • have contingency plans in place in case staff are suddenly required to work remotely due to a workplace closure or if travel to certain areas cannot take place as planned (for example carrying their laptop with them at all times);
  • encourage good hygiene and hand washing practices in the workplace; and
  • ensure that hand sanitiser, soap and tissues are available for all staff.

Employers should make sure that they do not treat anyone differently due to their race or ethnicity and should deal with this severely through disciplinary action if a member of staff is found to be doing this.

When should we exclude workers from the workspace?

It is good practice to err on the side of caution if an employee is not sure whether to self-isolate. Encourage them to call 111 for advice and do not pressure them to return to work prematurely. Be aware that failing to pay an employee may encourage them to come into work which could spread the coronavirus if they have it.

If someone with coronavirus has come into the workplace, please contact Public Health England. Currently it is unlikely that the workplace will have to close, but PHE can provide specific advice on what you should do next. If you are unsure, you can call 111.

What about Sick Pay?

If a member of staff has coronavirus or is self-isolating on medical advice, your usual sickness absence policies will apply. You may need to be flexible with your policies if, for example, an employee cannot get a fit note from a doctor.

If an employee is quarantined or is not allowed to travel back to the UK due to being in an affected area abroad, there is no legal right to sick pay. Despite this, it would be best practice to treat this period as sick leave under your normal sickness policy. Alternatively, you could allow employees to take such time as holiday but you should not force them to do so.

Laura Livingstone

Laura Livingstone Partner, Head of Employment

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