Coronavirus (COVID-19) for employers and employees

The UK has moved from the ‘contain’ to the ‘delay’ phase of its response to coronavirus and has widened the circumstances in which it recommends self-isolation.

This means that there is an increased chance of the response to coronavirus having an impact on the operations of employers and the lives of individual employees.

To help you navigate the challenges that may come with coronavirus, whether you are an employer or employee, we have put together this short guide.

Follow Government advice

The Government’s official advice has the potential to change quickly, so to ensure that you are acting in accordance with the latest advice from the Government, it is a good idea to visit the official guidance pages on gov.uk regularly

Advice for individuals   Guidance for employers and businesses

Sick pay for individuals in self-isolation

With the increased range of circumstances in which the Government advises that people should self-isolate, there is a greater chance that you will have to deal with self-isolation.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The regulations providing for those who self-isolate in accordance with public health guidance on coronavirus to be considered incapable of work, for the purpose of claiming statutory sick pay, have been made and brought into force from 13 March 2020.

The definition now includes a person who is “isolating himself [or herself] from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland or Public Health Wales …. and [who] by reason of that isolation is unable to work”.

An employee will need a notice to self-isolate or a fit note from their GP if they are following Public Health England advice to self-isolate.

The Government has also confirmed that SSP will now payable from the first day that an employee is absent from work to self-isolate.

The regulations to enable this have not yet been introduced. The Government has also committed to reimbursing businesses with less than 250 employees for the cost of SSP for the first 14 days of self-isolation.

Contractual Sick Pay

It may be necessary to pay additional sick pay in circumstances where this is provided for in a contract of employment, in the employee handbook, or even where it is usual practice.

If you are unsure as to what to do in specific circumstances, please contact a member of our team.

Pay for individuals you have required to self-isolate

There may be circumstances in which you consider that an employee should self-isolate, even where this is not in accordance with Government advice. In these circumstances, you would have to continue to pay them their basic salary as usual.

Lay-offs owing to reduced work

It is possible that businesses, especially those in certain sectors, will see a reduced workload as a consequence of coronavirus.

In these circumstances, and where allowed for in the contract of employment, employees can be laid off temporarily.

Employees who are laid off must be paid a guarantee payment of up to £29 a day and a maximum of £145 in a three-month period.

After four weeks, employees may be able to request that they are made redundant.

Use of holiday

An employer can require an employee to take holiday. This might be used, for example, as a way of avoiding an employee’s immediate return to work following a holiday in a higher risk area.

Employers must give notice to the employee that must be a least twice as long as the holiday that is required to be taken. If they want an employee to take a one week holiday, they have to give them two weeks notice.

There is very little case law on this. However, the courts have indicated that the request should be reasonable.

Additional steps

  • Provide guidance to employees, setting out your approach to coronavirus.
  • Assess whether any of your employees belong to vulnerable groups and who may need special provisions or employees whose presence is crucial to the functioning of your organisation.
  • Check the steps that can be taken feasibly to reduce the risk to employees, including whether it is possible to reduce face-to-face contact with customers, clients or suppliers, allowing working from home, stepping-up the cleaning regime or holding meetings remotely.

For further specific advice on dealing with coronavirus in your workplace, please contact us today.