Coronavirus and Employment RightsPepperells
As coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads more widely in the UK, employers should consider some simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff.
It is also important to understand your position as an employee.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated on 26 February 2020 that employers should pay sick pay to employees who have received medical advice to self-quarantine.
He has told MPs that “self-isolation on medical advice is considered sickness for employment purposes”
As the Health Secretary said: “That is a very important message for employers and those who can go home and self-isolate as if they were sick, because it is for medical reasons.”
This guidance provides much needed clarity at a time when questions are being raised.
It is important to note, however, that if an individual chooses to self-isolate without any medical guidance they will not qualify for statutory sick pay.
If a place of work needs to be shut down, employers should have a policy and plan in place.
They will need to consider if people can work remotely, what the contact arrangements are to keep employees up to date, and other measures that will need to be taken to best ensure that a business can continue to operate.
If the workplace is required to shut down, in most cases employers will need to continue to pay their staff as normal, unless the employee can work remotely but voluntarily choose not to.
Its good practice for employers to:
- Determine what proportionate steps should be taken by the company concerning day-to-day work, such as the provision of hand-sanitisers, ability to work remotely, and other steps.
- Determine when and in what circumstances sick pay is to be paid, including the reporting framework for employees so that the policy can be applied on a consistent basis.
- Set up a central point of contact for your employees and managers, so that queries and issues can be addressed.
- Ideally prepare a written policy detailing issues such as (i) steps to be taken by employees, such as washing hands, (ii) how and who to report any concerns regarding coronavirus, (iii) the situations in which sick pay will and will not be paid, including reporting, and (iv) travel on company business.
The workplace’s usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply if someone has coronavirus.
Employees should let their employer know as soon as possible if they’re not able to go to work.
The employer might need to make allowances if their workplace sickness policy requires evidence from the employee.
The employee must tell their employer as soon as possible if they cannot work. It’s helpful to let the employer know the reason and how long they are likely to be off for.
If an employee is not sick but the employer tells them not to come to work
If an employee is not sick but their employer tells them not to come to work, they should get their usual pay. For example, if someone has returned from China or another affected area and their employer asks them not to come in.
If an employee needs time off work to look after someone
Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a ‘dependant’) in an unexpected event or emergency.
This would apply to situations to do with coronavirus.
- if they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
- to help their child or another dependant if they’re sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital
There’s no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.
The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation.