In the light of the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), both employers and employees need to be aware of how they should deal with problems in the workplace resulting from the virus.
The UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate and the Prime Minister has indicated that there is a threat of a “significant expansion” of the number of cases in the UK. It is therefore eminently sensible to follow good practice and ensure that employees follow simple rules to prevent the spread of the virus by :-
Some businesses have been criticised for indicating that the virus will be treated like like any other illness, so for many that would mean no sick pay for the first three days, even if staff are ordered into quarantine.The TUC have argued that no one should have to worry about making ends meet at a time like this and that sick pay should be a “day one” right for everybody.
So what are your rights in the workplace? ACAS have put out guidance, which I have summarised below.
Your normal sick leave and pay entitlements will apply in accordance with the terms and conditions of your employment. Your employer might need to make some allowances as you might not be able to get a ‘fit note’ if you have to self-isolate. You should let your employer know as soon as you suspect that you may be infected. If you become unwell at work you should either call the NHS advice line and 111 or call an ambulance if you are seriously ill by dialing 999. you should ensure they tell the operator what their symptoms are and whether they have returned from another country within the last 14 days.
There is no legal (‘statutory’) right to pay, but it is good practice for the employer to treat it as sick leave or agree for the time to be taken as holiday. Employers should be mindful of the fact that if they refuse to pay staff, they may come to work because they want to get paid and in doing so may spread the virus.
This may happen if you have just returned returned from one of the affected areas such as China, South Korea, Italy or Tenerife or another affected area and your employer asks you not to come in. In this situation you are entitled to receive your usual pay. It would be wise to consider the Government guidance on countries and specified areas affected by COVID-19 with implications for returning travellers or visitors arriving in the UK – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-specified-countries-and-areas
You are entitled to a reasonable amount of time off work to help someone who depends on you (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations to do with Coronavirus. There is no set amount of time as it is dependent on the situation. Time off is unpaid, unless your contract provides that you should be paid or your employer agrees to pay you.
In some circumstances you may not want to go to work as you are afraid of catching Coronavirus. An employer should listen to any genuine concerns and should try to resolve them to protect your health and safety – perhaps by considering you working flexibly from home. However, you must be mindful that hat if you refuse to attend work, it could result in disciplinary action.
Unless it sates in your contract or is agreed otherwise, your employer will still need to pay you for the time the workplace is closed, even if you are unable to work at all. Employers should give consideration to their systems to ensure that staff have a way to communicate with them and their work colleagues and should also investigate whether staff could carry out various tasks at home.
Although, the Prime Minister and the Welsh First Minister have given the message of “business as usual”, Public Health England have said that the widespread transmission of Coronavirus in the UK was “highly likely”. So businesses need to be prepared. . There are sensible steps that businesses can take now such as –
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice.
As a firm we are fully supportive of the governments attempts to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.
We have therefore closed all of our offices until further notice.
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Thank you for your patience at this difficult time.
Stay safe and well.
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