As the number of cases of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, continues to grow globally, organisations and their staff are being presented with scenarios and questions which may feel unprecedented and uncertain in relation to the illness and the workplace. Below we have answered some of the key questions we are being asked by employers:
Do we need to pay an employee if they have been diagnosed with coronavirus?
Employees should receive their usual entitlement to sick leave and pay, including statutory sick pay.
The Government has announced that it will be bringing in temporary emergency legislation so that workers who are eligible for statutory sick pay will receive it from their first day off work, and not the fourth day of absence as is normally the case.
What if someone has possible symptoms of coronavirus but has not actually been diagnosed with it?
If an employee is too unwell to come into work, they will be entitled to receive sick leave and pay entitlements as above.
I have an employee who has been told that they should go into self-isolation even though they do not have any symptoms of coronavirus. What should I do and do I need to pay them?
Firstly, consider whether the individual can work from home. If they can, then they should receive their normal pay. If homeworking is not possible, check your policies in case they give the employee a right to receive pay anyway.
If NHS 111 or a doctor has told someone to self-isolate, the Government has said that they should receive any statutory sick pay due to them. Statutory sick pay regulations suggest that if someone self-isolates because they are given a ‘written notice’, such as a note issued by a GP or NHS 111, then they are considered to be unable to work and entitled to statutory sick pay. You should therefore ask the employee to provide a fit note from their GP or NHS 111. However, if the employee has chosen to self-isolate and/or does not have a note from a GP or NHS 111, it is likely that they are not entitled to statutory sick pay.
It would be good practice to pay them any contractual sick pay they may be entitled to as well. If an employee is faced with no pay, they may try to come into work. We would advise that you check your sickness absence policies and terms of any contractual sick pay that you offer to ensure that you comply with those too.
A member of staff has just returned from a holiday abroad – can I ask them to self-isolate?
Possibly. It will very much depend on the situation, and you may need to take legal advice if this arises. However, if you do ask them to stay at home despite them not being sick, they should receive their usual full pay.
We have self-employed staff and some on zero hours contracts. Can they get sick pay?
Workers on zero hours contracts are entitled to statutory sick pay but only if they meet certain requirements. Statutory sick pay is not usually available for self-employed people. However, the Government has suggested that it will be making it “quicker and easier” for those who are self-employed or on zero hours contracts to access benefits and assistance.
Are there any practical steps I can take in the workplace?
This will depend on the kind of work that you do, but some suggestions include:
Ensuring that staff contact details are up to date.
Considering whether there are any steps you can take now to facilitate homeworking if that is needed. For example, ask staff to take laptops and other devices home with them each night just in case.
Keeping your staff updated where steps are being taken by you to reduce the risk in the workplace.
Checking that staff have access to somewhere that they can wash their hands. Remind them of the importance of washing their hands regularly or keeping sanitiser to hand if they may be working in a place where this may not be possible.
These are just some of the issues arising from the coronavirus outbreak in relation to staff, however the position continues to change daily. Our specialist team of employment lawyers can help you navigate through these issues as they develop.
For further information and advice, if you subscribe to the ELS Helpline, please call 0333 013 9993 or alternatively you can contact us on the details below:
Emma Thomas Legal Services Manager – Dispute Resolution and Employment Law
0333 013 9606
Omar Qassim – Supervising Associate (Employment Law)
0333 013 9606
Emily Mulleady - Solicitor
0333 013 0797