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Coronavirus concerns? Where do you stand?

March 2, 2020
Employment Law

Some tricky questions are currently being asked about what happens if an employee is unable to attend work for reasons related to the coronavirus. In this article, we have summarised the key points you need to know.

What if an employee contracts coronavirus and can’t come to work?

They should be treated in the same way as any other employee who is absent from work as a result of ill-health or injury. If they have a contractual right to sick pay, you will need to honour this right. Otherwise, they may only be entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay at the rate of £94.25 per week.

What if an employee needs to ‘self-isolate’ because they may have come into contact with the virus?

If the ‘self-isolation’ is a precautionary measure and the employee is not actually sick, it is questionable whether they are entitled to sick pay, whether contractual or statutory.  Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, claims that SSP would be payable in circumstances such as these. The law is not as clear on this issue as he would like to suggest.  That said, it is advisable to adopt a common-sense approach to relatively exceptional situations of this nature. Some people may actually be able to work perfectly effectively from home. Others may wish to use some of their holiday entitlement to cover their enforced absence. Ideally, employers will work with their employees to find a mutually agreeable arrangement. After all, you don’t want to create a situation in which employees return to work before it’s sensible to do so, just because they’re worried about not getting paid.

What if it’s the employer who wants the employee to stay away from work?

If you become aware that one of your employees may have come into contact with coronavirus, you may wish to proactively ask them to remain away from work. Again, consider whether you can ask them to work from home. Alternatively, do you have the contractual right to suspend employees in such circumstances? In all likelihood, unless the employee agrees otherwise, any enforced period of suspension is likely to give rise to the ongoing obligation to pay the employee their full rate of pay.

It’s all quite fact-sensitive…

With any luck, coronavirus-related problems will remain relatively rare. However, if you find yourself grappling with an issue of this nature, please contact us for specific legal advice. You can also access ACAS’s guidance on this subject via the link below:


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