Obligations On Employers And Employees In Dealing With Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Posted on 5th March 2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is dominating headlines around the world and we are receiving a high volume of calls from employers who are having to think carefully about how to deal with the very unusual circumstances arising out of the global health crisis. This newsletter is designed to give you, our valued client’s our advice on dealing with Coronavirus risks and absences arising out of Coronavirus.

It is good practice to:
  • Keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace.
  • Promote regular hand washing, use of antibacterial gels/sprays, coughing into the crease of the arm, no face touching.
  • Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date.
  • Make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of Coronavirus and are clear on the relevant processes.
  • Make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap and provide hand sanitisers and tissues for staff, while encouraging them to use them.
  • Consider if protective face masks might help for people working in particularly vulnerable situations.
Self-Isolation:
  • Self-isolation requires an individual to remain at home for a period of 14 days to limit their contact with others.
  • The government has made it clear that if NHS 111 or a doctor advises an employee or worker to self-isolate, they are entitled to statutory sick pay. If the employer offers contractual sick pay, it is good practice to provide this.
  • As of 4th March 2020, emergency legislation has come into force that requires employers to pay statutory sick pay from day one as to not penalise those who are self-isolating and helping to contain the spread of Coronavirus.
  • Employers might need to be flexible if they require evidence of incapacity to work, such as a fit note, if they have been told to self-isolate.
  • In some cases, employees may be able to work from home while in self-isolation. This would be dependent on the type of job they do and having no contact with others as part of their job.
If an employee needs time off to look after someone else or because they have genuine concerns of catching the virus:
  • An employee is entitled to take time off work to help someone who is dependent on them, there is no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers may wish to pay dependent on the contract or workplace policy and to discourage an employee, who may have potentially come into contact with Coronavirus, to come into work and risk spreading the disease.
  • The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation. For example, if there are school closures and an employee needs to stay home to look after their child, you may allow them 2 or 3 days to find alternative childcare, and if more time is needed, they can book holiday.
  • Some employees may be genuinely concerned about coming to work due to the risk of catching Coronavirus, an employer should listen to any concerns staff may have and try to resolve them to protect the health and safety of their staff. For example, consider flexible working, offering further hygiene protection in the workplace or arranging unpaid or holiday leave.
  • If any employee refuses to attend work and there are no genuine concerns, disciplinary action is an option.

Should you require any further information you can visit the below websites to find published guidance on COVID-19 for employers and businesses:

NHS

Public Health England

ACAS

World Health Organisation

Government Advice

Carla Cifaldi Character
Written by:
Carla Cifaldi
HR Consultant