In case coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads more widely in the UK, we offer the following Coronavirus Guidance for Employers. Employers should consider taking some simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff, whilst at the same time ensuring to help protect themselves from potential legal action.
Good practice for employers
It’s good practice for employers to:
- keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
- make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
- consider extra precautions for staff who might be more vulnerable, for example if someone is pregnant, aged 70 or over, or has a pre-existing health condition
- make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace shows symptoms of the virus
- make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
- provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
- reconsider any travel to affected areas
- encourage working from home where possible
- keep up to date with the latest government coronavirus advice on GOV.UK
Employers must not single anyone out unfairly. For example, they must not treat an employee differently because of their race or ethnicity.
Self-isolation and sick pay
Employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they need to self-isolate because:
- they have coronavirus
- they have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
- someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
- they’ve been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
An employer might need to be flexible if they require evidence from the employee or worker. For example, someone might not be able to provide a sick note (‘fit note’) if they’ve been told to self-isolate for more than 7 days.
If someone returns from an affected area
Anyone returning from an affected area, for example China or Italy, should self-isolate and either:
- use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service
- call 111, for NHS advice
- Their employer should pay them Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or contractual sick pay while they’re in self-isolation and cannot work.
If the employer needs to close the workplace
In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time, or 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. If the employer thinks they’ll need to do this, it’s important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.
Working from home
Employers should encourage staff to work from home where possible.
- ask staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to take them home so they can carry on working
- arrange paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computers
If an employer and employee agree to working from home, the employee should get their usual pay.
Employers have the right to tell employees and workers when to take holiday if they need to. For example, they can decide to shut for a week and everyone has to use their holiday entitlement.
If the employer does decide to do 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 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.
This could affect holiday staff have already booked or planned. So employers should:
- explain clearly why they need to close
- try and resolve anyone’s worries about how it will affect their holiday entitlement or plans
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. For example:
- 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
Corovirus Guidance for Employers would be that 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. For example, they might take 2 days off to start with, and if more time is needed, they can book holiday.
If an employee does not want to go to work
Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they’re afraid of catching coronavirus. We have the following Corovirus guidance advice for employers: An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have. If there are genuine concerns, the employer must try to resolve them to protect the health and safety of their staff. For example, if possible, the employer could offer flexible working.
If an employee still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this.
If an employee refuses to attend work, it could result in disciplinary action.
Contact Us Today
At Arlingsworth, our employment law team are on hand 24/7 to provide specialist advice and guidance during these uncertain times. Please contact our Employment Law Department on +44 (0) 1273 696962.
Disclaimer: The information in this blog is intended for general information only and reflects the position in the law at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated or relied upon as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.