As the number of cases and geographical areas affected by Coronavirus continues to increase, this is presenting some practical issues for employers, particularly around self-isolation and sick pay. Below are some of the common questions we have been asked.
If an employee is quarantined or self-isolated, what should they be paid?
This is a difficult area because the employee is not “sick”.
There is no legal right to pay if someone is not sick but cannot work because they:
- have been told by a medical expert to self-isolate
- have had to go into quarantine
- are abroad in an affected area and are not allowed to travel back to the UK.
However, it may be prudent to pay employees in such case to avoid the risk that they return to work prematurely and potentially infect colleagues.
This is different from a case where an employee chooses (i.e. without a medical recommendation) to self-isolate. In such case, then the employee should return to work, although the employer may consider allowing them to take holiday to cover the absence.
Can I insist that an employee self-isolates even if not medically advised?
If it is considered that an employee presents a genuine risk to the health and safety of others (possibly because of a region they have been travelling in) then they should not attend work and it may be a breach of the employer’s duty to permit them to come in. In such case, as it is the employer who is insisting that they stay away from work they should receive full pay.
If an employee is self-isolating can I insist that they work from home?
If it is practical for employees to work from home then this may be a reasonable request. In such a case, the employee would be entitled to receive their normal pay. Homeworking puts additional obligations on employers and if you are considering this, it is essential that you take legal advice first.
What should I do if an employee refuses to come to work because they are worried about Coronavirus?
This needs careful consideration on a case by case basis. For employers who can easily provide homeworking it is much more likely to be reasonable to allow this, albeit for a limited period of time. Ultimately a refusal to attend work is grounds for disciplinary action.
ACAS has produced some useful guidance for employers and employees reading Coronavirus which you can find here.
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