With the Coronavirus causing extreme concern on a global scale, now is a good time for employers to issue their own guidance to their employees and help to stop the spread.
Here are some simple steps employers can implement:
- ensure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap. Hold a short talk to highlight the seriousness of the outbreak and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly, provide hand sanitiser for staff
- consider extra precautions for more vulnerable workers such as those over the age of 70, pregnant staff members and any with pre-existing health conditions
- make sure staff know how to spot symptoms of the virus, procedures for sickness reporting and sick pay
- reconsider travel to affected areas
- make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
Working from home
If staff have work laptops or mobile phones, its advisable they carry on working from home. If an employer and employee agree to working from home, the employee should get their usual pay.
Employer might need to close their business for a period under these extreme circumstances or may need to ask staff to reduce their contracted hours. Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.
Employers have the right to tell employees when to take holiday, if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone must use their holiday entitlement. If the employer does this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take. For example, if they want to close for 4 days, they should tell everyone at least 8 days beforehand.
Employees are entitled to time off to help someone who depends on them in an unexpected event or emergency. This applies to situations to do with coronavirus. It includes a parent needing to look after their children because of a school closure or looking after a child if they’re sick or in isolation.
While there’s no statutory right to pay for this time off, some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.
Self-isolation and sick pay
Employees and workers must receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they need to self-isolate because:
- they have coronavirus
- they have coronavirus symptoms (fever or continuous cough)
- someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
- they’ve been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
If someone has symptoms, everyone in their household must self-isolate for 14 days. Employers need to be flexible during the current crisis as government advises against visiting GPs for a sick note to prevent further spread of the virus.
Travelling from affected areas
Anyone returning from an affected area, for example China or Italy, should self-isolate.
Their employer should pay them Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or contractual sick pay while they’re in self-isolation and cannot work.
Continue to keep up to date with the Coronavirus developments through the government advice in the UK here:
If you have concerns about your health, check NHS.UK for Coronavirus advice here.
This article does not constitute legal advice.
The opinions expressed in the column above represent the author’s own.