12/05/20

COVID -19 – FAQs

Providing Employment information around COVID-19 FAQs

Providing Employment information around COVID-19 FAQs

We will be updating this document regularly

Last updated 05 June 2020

When should sick pay be given in cases of self-isolation:

As employee or worker must be paid SSP (subject to the eligibility criteria) or contractual sick pay if they need to isolate as a result of any of the following:

  • They have COVID-19 symptoms
  • They have been told to self-isolate by a Doctor or NHS 111
  • They have contracted COVID-19
  • Someone in their house has COVID-19
  • The government has also announced that small employers (with fewer than 250 employees) will be reimbursed for any SSP paid to employees in respect of the first 14 days of sickness related to COVID-19.
  • “waiting days” are no longer required therefore an employee who is entitled to SPP should be paid this from day one of their absence.

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (please see our separate article) cannot be used to furlough employees on short term sickness absence.

What evidence is required:

At the moment, employers need to be flexible. The government has launched online “isolation notes” that can be used to provide evidence that employees have to self-isolate.

Can an employer send an employee home to self-isolate:

  • An employer has a duty to protect the health and safety of other employees.
  • If there is a risk that an employee may have been exposed to COVID-19, it is understandable to require that employee to stay away. We suggest that the employer considers whether it is appropriate to suspend that employee, this is likely to be on full pay.
  • This decision is not to be taken lightly and we encourage you to contact us to discuss.
  • If they can work from home – then they should be paid as normal.
  • If they are sent home in circumstances that do not follow the government’s self-isolation advice, the employee will be entitled to full pay, please contact us first if you wish to consider this so that we can look at the available options.
  • If the self-isolation criteria is met, the employee will be entitled to SSP.

What if you need to close the workplace:

  • Have a way in which all staff can be contacted – such as a Whatsapp group.
  • If an employee can work from home and carry out their duties, they will be paid their normal salary.
  • If an employee is to work from home consider health and safety https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/workers/home.htm
  • Requiring an employee to work from home will normally require a contractual variation – seek consent from the employee (in the circumstance’s this shouldn’t be difficult to obtain!).

What if an employee is not able to work from home?

  • Where it is not possible for work to be completed at home, businesses should consider shift working or the staggering of processes which would enable staff to continue to operate both effectively and at a safe distance.
  • If the business can continue to operate but that employee cannot attend work they will either be paid sick pay, if they are incapacitated or shielding (SSP or contractual), or nil pay (depending on the circumstances).
  • You may also wish to consider whether to furlough that employee.

What happens if an employee needs time off work to look after someone else?

  • Employees are entitled to time off to look after a dependent in a time of need.
  • This time is unpaid unless the contract or a policy specifically provides for this to be paid.
  • The amount of time off taken must be reasonable.
  • If the individual that the employee is looking after is displaying Covid-19 symptoms then they are likely to be entitled to SSP because they would therefore need to self-isolate in accordance with government guidelines.

What happens if a member of staff does not want to come to work (due to fear of contracting COVID-19)

If an employee refuses to come to work due to fear for their health and safety, caution must be exercised by the employer when dealing with the issue. The employer may wish to discipline the employee immediately for failure to follow a reasonable management instruction to attend work, we strongly advise against disciplinary action being taken immediately. Employees can bring claims where they have either been dismissed or subjected to detrimental treatment as a result of raising a health and safety concern. These claims could result in unlimited damages. Businesses such as care homes and supermarkets are likely to see concerns being raised by employees regarding lack of PPE or enforcement of social distancing measures. Where concerns like this are raised employers should handle the matter with care and not simply force the employee to continue working under those conditions. The employer should take all reasonable steps to address the concerns and consider feedback from their employees with regards to alternative options that could be offered. If any issue of this nature is raised we would urge an employer to seek legal advice before taking any action.

  • Prior to re-opening the workplace you need to ensure it is safe to do so. The government has issued guidance to employers to assist them prepare the workplace to enable a safe working environment.
  • The employer has a duty to protect the health and safety of staff; the employer should carry out a thorough risk assessment and identify ways in which the risks can be reduced.
  • All steps taken to protect employees’ health and safety should be publicised to the employees.
  • Speak to the member of staff and try to understand the reasons behind not wishing to attend.
  • If the employee suffers from an underlying disability or health condition which puts them at higher risk and they are shielding in accordance with the government guidance then they will be entitled to SSP (subject to meeting the eligibility criteria).
  • An employer should consider in this situation whether it is appropriate to furlough that employee.

If someone comes to work who develops symptoms:

  • Isolate them.
  • Keep them at least two metres away from others.
  • Request the unwell person calls 111 immediately or 999 if life is at risk.
  • Ensure the workplace is cleaned to the required standards.

If someone comes to work who has COVID-19:

Contact the local Public Health England Team
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/contacts-phe-health-protection-teams
If you would like any further advice or guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact the Employment Team, who will be happy to help.

 

 

12/05/20

About the author

Jayme NicholsonPartner and Head of Employment

Jayme is a Partner and Head of our Employment team

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