Coronavirus Advice For Employers
Employers across the country have questions in relation to the Coronavirus. Here are some of the more common ones, with answers helpfully provided:
Q: Should I be sending employees home?
A: It depends on the circumstances. You don’t need to send everyone home just yet. But, if a member of staff has returned from one of the affected areas, or is displaying symptoms, you can reasonably ask them to stay at home.
The virus is considered to be spreading freely in the UK now, not just from those returning from affected locations. As a result, it’s now a requirement for anyone who has a mild fever and/or a persistent cough to isolate themselves for a week.
Updates are posted regularly on the government website, so keep up to date with them here.
Q: What do I do if someone refuses to come into work?
A: Some people are legitimately concerned about their health. If there’s a heightened risk of catching the virus in your workplace, some employees may refuse to come in. If they do you should listen to their concerns and offer reassurance.
You should consider offering a temporary flexible working arrangement, including homeworking if possible. Or, you could allow them to take some time off as holiday or unpaid leave.
Forcing an employee to come into work against their will is likely to get messy fast, so try to be as considerate and flexible as possible.
Q: Do I have to pay employees who are self-isolating?
A: The other issue that comes with self-isolating is pay. From 13th March, everyone who has been advised to self-isolate is entitled to SSP. This is provided they meet other qualifying conditions, such as being unable to work from home, or not able to work due to being ill. And, this is expected to be the case for the next eight months.
For companies with fewer than 250 staff, the Government has pledged to refund SSP for the first two weeks of absence.
Q: Do I have to pay employees who have Coronavirus?
A: If an employee is legitimately sick with the virus, then they qualify for at least statutory sick pay (SSP). If their contract states that they are provided more, then they will receive that.
SSP is paid at £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks, and is paid from the fourth day of sickness. The individual may not have to provide a doctor’s note, as staff can self-certify with symptoms of flu without a doctor.
REMEMBER: This will increase to £95.85 in April 2020.
The government have stated that SSP will be provided from day one, not day four, for those who have the virus. However, the current implementation date for this is yet to be announced.
Q: Should I pay someone who is self-isolating to take care of a dependent with Coronavirus symptoms?
A: If they’ve followed government guidance, and have sought NHS advice, then they should receive SSP.
Q: What should I do to minimise impact?
A: Acas has also provided guidance for what you should do if the virus spreads more widely across the UK. You should:
- Ensure staff details are up to date
- Ensure emergency contact details are up to date
- Refresh managers on policies & procedures, in particular those relating to sickness absence
- Implement NHS advice on hygiene in your workplace, including hand-washing guidance and the provision of soap and water
- Provide hand sanitisers and tissues to staff an encourage usage of them.
It’s also worth considering whether you might need to close your workplace. This includes considering whether homeworking is possible, and maintaining communication with staff.
Jolliffes solicitors in Chester can help with any legal advice regarding this.