The spread of Coronavirus has had a significant impact across the world and we are starting to see the effect here in the UK in people’s working lives.
Recent government advice to people returning from 11 affected towns in Northern Italy is to self isolate for 14 days, if they have symptoms. This has raised questions about eligibility for sick pay and what employees’ rights might be more generally. Equally, employers may be wondering how they can keep their organisations going where key employees are in self imposed quarantine. Legally, staff are entitled to basic statutory sick pay if they are certified as unfit to work. However, if they aren’t showing any symptoms the position is less clear and they would not, strictly speaking be entitled to anything unless their contract gives them a right to company pay or the employer agrees to pay as a one off, given the exceptional circumstances.
The responsible thing to do is to pay staff if having identified a possible risk of infection, it makes sense for them to remain at home for a period even if they seem well. The potential consequences of not doing so are far worse if a highly contagious condition like coronavirus then spreads throughout the workforce through a worker who cannot afford to stay away unpaid. Of course, if staff can work from home then this makes sense as they can remain both quarantined and productive. But that isn’t going to work for everyone, particularly if they are involved in manufacturing or service industries where a physical presence is part and parcel of the job.
If an employer instructs you not to attend work for whatever reason, then they should normally continue to pay wages if you are otherwise willing and able to attend work. If you choose to follow government advice having been in a risk area, you should talk to your employer and agree a sensible plan of action. If everyone acts responsibly, this situation should remain contained and will not have a significant impact for most employers.
If your organisation is concerned about managing absences or is unsure about payments to staff who may be affected by the coronavirus situation, contact Chris Phillips or member of the employment team.