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Coronavirus: Advice for employers

At a time of such uncertainty, it’s important to use relevant up to date information. Make sure when searching online, you are using reliable, trusted sources when researching ‘coronavirus: advice for employers’.

Tom Evans, Head of Employment and HR at DTM Legal commented:

“This is an unsettling time for businesses across the north west and the UK. Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation is circulating on social media and many people aren’t sure what to believe. It’s important to refer to trusted, reliable sources to help you identify the best possible solution for your business.”

In light of the recent pandemic of Covid-19, our latest update focuses on employer’s advice to employees. Our advice is as follows:

Practicalities:

  1. Ensure you keep up to date with the Government guidelines.
  2. If you are client facing, ensure you insert a caveat to your signature on emails to ask anybody that has been to affected countries or is symptomatic, not to come to the office. This message should also be added to letter templates and your website.
  3. Ensure employees are familiar with the Government health guidelines for washing hands thoroughly and frequently, disposing of tissues after use, sneezing into elbows, using hand sanitizers and wiping surfaces clean.
  4. Ensure employees who have a period of annual leave booked inform you of where they are going so that you can make the appropriate arrangements.
  5. Those with symptoms in accordance with government advice should self-isolate for 7 days.

Wages and pay issues

There are a number of issues regarding pay that arise for employees affected by Coronavirus, that we explore in turn below:

  • If an employee is sick with Coronavirus: they should be paid statutory sick pay (SSP) as normal for sick employees.
  • If an employee has a child sick with Coronavirus and employee needs time off to care for them: this will constitute dependent leave and will be paid in accordance with your dependant leave policy.
  • If an employee is returning from Italy/affected areas in the near future: the Government guidance at the moment states that employees should return, self-isolate and then check Gov guidelines for next steps, then if the Government or a doctor advises an employee or worker to self-isolate for a certain period, they should receive. Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them. As per Boris Johnson’s most recent announcement SSP should be paid from day 1 rather than day 4. The Government guidance states that any person coming back from those areas must self-isolate and ring NHS 111 for further guidance on next steps. Please note that if employees are able to work from home they should be paid their usual wage.
  • If an employee is not sick but fears catching Coronavirus so refuses to work: you should listen to your employees’ concerns; offer reassurance; consider flexible working arrangements such as homeworking; or offer them the option to take annual leave or unpaid time off if possible. They are not entitled to statutory sick pay.
  • If a medical practitioner tells an employee to self-isolate or go into quarantine despite being well enough to work: The starting point is whether the employee is able to work from home. If so, the employee should be paid. If they cannot work from home then they are deemed in accordance with the Regulations to be incapable of work, and so are entitled to statutory sick pay.

If the employee chooses to self-isolate e.g because they are worried about catching Coronavirus, have returned from an area that may be affected or are just a vulnerable person e.g. over 60 or with cardiovascular disease: there is a debate regarding whether they are entitled to SSP, our advice would be that it would be good practice to pay SSP so that employees are not economically incentivised to return to work and potentially spread the virus.

Where can I find reliable information on Covid-19?

England: Gov England 

Wales: Gov Wales 

Scotland: Convid 19 Guidance

World Health Organisation: Coronavirus 19 Updates

Acas Guidance https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

Further to that this information is only true of today’s date 16.03.2020 and may significantly change.

For more information, contact Head of Employment & HR, Tom Evans.

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