The government publishes daily updates at 2pm with the latest stats and advice. The risk level is currently identified as moderate.
How can I reduce the risk to my employees?
You should send round an email/guidance encouraging employees to be extra-vigilant with washing their hands, using and disposing of tissues and ensure that all your toilets are well stocked with soap. All employees should have access to tissues and hand sanitiser. Defer any non-urgent business related travel to countries with a high incidence of the virus. Ensure that you have up to date emergency contact information for all staff.
If an employee is not sick but in quarantine/self-isolation, do I have to pay them sick pay?
Employees who are in self-isolation on medical advice should be treated as on sick leave and may be eligible for statutory sick pay.
The statutory sick regulations state ‘A person who is not incapable of work of which he can reasonably be expected to do under a particular contract of service may be deemed to be incapable of work of such a kind by reason of some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement for any day on which either he is excluded or abstains from work, or from work of such a kind, pursuant to a request or notice in writing lawfully made under an enactment, or by reason of it being known or reasonably suspected that he is infected or contaminated by, or has been in contact with a case of, a relevant infection or contamination.’
‘Relevant infection or contamination’ means ‘any incidence or spread of infection or contamination, within the meaning of section 45A(3) of the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 in respect of which regulations are made under Part 2A of that Act (public health protection) for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to, such incidence or spread’.
So, assuming that someone who self isolates does so because they are given a written notice, typically issued by a GP or by 111, will be deemed to be incapable of work and therefore entitled to statutory sick pay.
What if employees do not want to come to work?
Some people may be worried about catching coronavirus and therefore unwilling to come into work. You should listen carefully to their concerns and if possible, offer flexible working arrangements such as homeworking. Employees can also request time off as holiday or unpaid leave but there is no obligation on you to agree to this. If an employee refuses to attend work, you are entitled to take disciplinary action, however dismissal is likely to be a disproportionate sanction at this early stage.
Coronavirus is affecting my business, what can I do?
If you have suffered a downturn in work as a result of the virus, you could consider whether you have the right to lay your employees off or put them on short time working under their contract of employment. Lay off is where your employees are not required to come into work for at least a day or more. Short time is working reduced hours. Employees can seek to claim a redundancy payment after a certain period of time. Their entitlement to pay will depend on the wording of their contract, however they would be entitled to statutory guarantee pay for a maximum of 5 days in any 3 month period, currently at the rate of £29 per day.
For further advice contact Lianne Payne, Head of Employment.