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Coronavirus:Guidance for Employers and Employees

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Whilst the coronavirus seems to have originated in China there are cases now being confirmed in the UK, but the current information is that the risk of catching coronavirus at work appears to be low.

As the days go by and more cases are identified further guidance will be issued.  It is recommended that government sites are referred to for the latest advice..

It is however good practice to make sure that everyone at work follows simple hygiene rules such as washing hands thoroughly with soap and hot water and using tissues when sneezing or coughing and throwing them away afterwards.

Susan Mayall, Head of Employment Law for Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers has this advice, “With the spread of the coronavirus it’s important that employers consider how to protect their business and their employees. 

It is recommended that a coronavirus contingency plan is put in place to address business continuity just in case the situation gets worse.”

Health and Safety tips for Employers:-

  • Keep all staff up-to-date on actions being taken to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus at work
  • 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 any relevant processes, e.g. sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone develops the virus
  • Make sure there are places to wash hands with soap and hot water, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
  • Consider giving out hand sanitisers and tissues to staff, and encourage them to use them
  • Consider if protective face masks might help for people working in particularly vulnerable situations
  • Consider if any travel planned to affected areas is essential

Sick Pay

The usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply if someone has coronavirus

If employees are unable to go to work they should let their employer know as soon as possible.  However the employers might need to make allowances if their policy states that evidence is required e.g. if the employee has been told to self-isolate they might not be able to obtain a sick note.

Self-isolation or Quarantine

If an employee is in self-isolation or quarantine they may not be physically sick but find they cannot work; there is no legal right to pay them because they:-

  • Have been told to self-isolate by a medical expert
  • Had to go into quarantine
  • Weren’t allowed to travel back to the UK (due to being in an affected area)

Their employer should treat it as sick leave and follow the usual sick pay policy or agree for the time to be taken from their holiday entitlement.  If this isn’t addressed there could be a risk of the employee returning to work because they want paying and then (if they do have it) they could be at risk of spreading the virus.  If the employee cannot work they must tell their employer as soon as possible giving a reason and an estimated date of return.


What if employees do not want to come to work?

Employers should listen to the concerns of their staff and perhaps offer alternative arrangements, ie working from home.  Employees can request time off as holiday or unpaid leave but there is not obligation on employers to agree to this.  If an employee refuses to attend work you are entitled to take disciplinary action.  However, the view of Daniel Barnet, Employment Law Barrister, is that dismissal is likely to be outside the range of reasonable responses, at least for now.  If someone refuses to come into work and the coronavirus issues continue into the medium term, this may need to be reassessed as time goes on.

Employers should also be mindful of disability discrimination and also their special duties towards pregnant and disabled employees.

For further information and advice on this matter please contact Susan Mayall, Employment Law Solicitor on 0161 785 3500

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

Written by Susan Mayall


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