While the UK continues to battle with the Coronavirus, the following may be useful in connection with sick pay –
• The workplace usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply if an employee has Coronavirus.
• Employees should let their employer know as soon as possible if they are unable to go to work.
• The employer may need to make allowances if their workplace sickness policy requires evidence from the employee. For example, the employee may not be able to get a sick note (fit note) if they have been told to self isolate for 14 days.
• If an employee is not sick but cannot work because they are in self isolation or quarantine, in circumstances when they have been told by a medical expert to self isolate or have had to go in to quarantine or are abroad in an effected area and are not allowed to travel back to UK then there is no legal statutory right to pay, but it may be possible for the employer to treat the absence as sick leave and follow their usual sick pay policy or agree for the time to be taken as holiday. Otherwise, the risk is the employee will come to work because they will want to get paid. This could then result in the spread of the virus if indeed they have it.
• If an employee is not sick, but the employer tells them not to come to work then the employee should be paid.
• Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a dependent) in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations regarding Coronavirus. For example, if the employee has children they need to look after or arrange childcare or because the school is closed or to help their child or other dependent if they are sick or need to go in to isolation or hospital. There is no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers may offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy.
• If an employee feels they do not want to go to work because they are afraid of catching Coronavirus, then an employer should listen to any concerns staff may have and if there are genuine concerns, the employer should try to resolve them to protect the health and safety of their staff. If an employee still does not want to go in to work, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this. If an employee refuses to attend work without good reason, this could result in disciplinary action.
• If someone becomes unwell at work and has recently returned from an area effected by Coronavirus, then the employer should ensure that they stay at last 2 meters (7 ft) away from other people, go to a room or area behind a closed door, avoid touching anything and use a separate bathroom. The unwell person should then use their own mobile phone to call either NHS Advice 111 or if they are feeling seriously ill, call an ambulance.
• If an employee with Coronavirus comes to work, the employer can contact the local Public Health England (PHE Health Protection Team) to discuss the case, identify the employees who have been in contact with the effected person, carry out a risk assessment and advise on any actions or precautions to take.
• Currently it is unlikely that employers will need to close their workplace, but employers should still plan in case the need arises. For example, making sure staff have a way to communicate with the employer and other people they work with and where possible, make arrangements for staff to work at home.
For further information or help then please contact Ian Furness – Employment Law Solicitor, Brearleys Solicitors 01924 443900