Coronavirus (Covid-19) Update 1

I know that the spread of the coronavirus is a genuine cause for concern, particularly following the decision by the World Health Organisation to confirm the outbreak as a pandemic and the likely decision of the government to move to the “delay” phase of their plan to tackle the outbreak.

This is our first update to employers.  I will email further updates as we know more.

I found the following to be the best and reliable sources of information.

Guidance for individuals

General guidance for individuals on Covid-19 is available at Advice for Individuals

Guidance for Employers

General guidance at Guidance for employers and businesses.  This explains what to do if someone at work is suspected of having coronavirus.

Practical matters

Self Isolation and Sick Pay

Do I have to pay SSP?

The Government have announced that SSP will be payable from Day One of Self Isolation and will fund the first 14 days of SSP for employers with less than 250 employees.

Whilst the Government have asked employers to take a sensible approach as to evidence of self isolation, the SSP rules would require at least a notice to be given by HHS 111 or a GP that self isolation is required.  At the very least, as  an employer, you will need to check that the employee meets the current criteria for self isolation before making a payment of SSP.

Do I have to pay Company Sick Pay?

If the employee is entitled to SSP and you have company sick pay provisions in your contract of employment, handbook or even custom and practice you  may be required to top up SSP payments  during periods of self isolation.  This will depend on whether there is an absolute contractual entitlement or if there is any discretion open to you.

If you have an absolute contractual obligation then you will be obliged to pay Company sick pay to top up SSP.

If you are unsure as to whether you are obliged to pay company sick pay please contact me and I can review your contractual provisions.

What should I pay if I have asked an employee to self isolate

If you ask an employee to self isolate, even if the government guidance does not require it, then you would have to pay the employee their basic contractual pay and benefits.

Can I lay off employees due to a decrease in work?

If you find that work has reduced and do not have enough work for your employee, you can lay off your employees, provided that there is a clause in your contract of employment allowing it.  You would then be obliged to make a “guarantee payment” currently limited to £29 per day for each day laid off.  (This is subject to a  maximum of £145 in any 3 months period.)

If a lay off period continues for 4 weeks or more ,there are provisions for an employee to request to be made redundancy.  This is not an absolute right and I will provide you with more guidance should such a request is made of you.

Other Practical Steps

You may now want to consider what your organisation can do to limit the spread of Covid-19 amongst your employees.

  • Have you provided any guidance to employees?
  • Do you have any employees who might be vulnerable employees?
  • Have you identified key roles or key employees?
  • Can you reduce risk (especially to vulnerable and key employees)by implementing alternative working arrangements in the workplace(including allowing more space between employees, additional cleaning regimes, hand washing notices, suggesting no longer shaking hands) or home working?
  • Can you reduce contact with others by holding meetings by telephone and video conferencing?
  • Can you reduce the use of public transport?

I can assist with any new policies or announcements you may need to draft, just let me know.

If you have any particular queries please do not hesitate to contact David Scott.