19 March 2020
Q&A to assist employers in dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak
1. When should employees self-isolate?
2. When should employees receive sick pay?
Whether or not you operate a contractual sick pay scheme for some or all of your employees, all employees who are absent from work due to “incapacity” are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
The Government has changed the law so that ”incapacity” includes employees who are self-isolating in accordance with Government advice. Also, SSP must now be paid from the first day of absence.
3. Can we require employees to obtain fit notes?
Medical evidence is not required for the first seven days of sickness. After seven days, it is up to you to decide what evidence you will require. While fit notes will shortly be available through NHS 111 Online, the Government is urging employers to be flexible.
4. What if my employee has been advised to self-isolate, but isn’t sick themselves?
If your employee is self-isolating in accordance with Government guidance, they will be entitled to SSP. Also, you should check whether they are entitled to contractual sick pay.
5. Can I force my employees to work from home?
You need to check your contract. Forcing an employee to work from home could be a breach of contract. In addition, you should ensure you have considered the health and safety implications of home working.
6. What if my employee wants to come to work but has been advised to self-isolate? Can I stop them? Should I?
Yes and yes. You owe a duty of care to your employees and allowing employees who have been advised to self-isolate to come into work could put them and your other employees at risk.
7. Can I suspend employees who have not been advised to self-isolate?
Yes, provided that you pay them their normal rate of pay and continue to provide them with their normal benefits.
8. What if an employee refuses to attend work due to fears about coronavirus and is unable to work from home?
Employees who have not been advised to self-isolate will not be entitled to sick pay if they refuse to attend work. However, you should consider what you can do to help alleviate the employee’s concerns and whether their anxiety is the result of a disability.
9. Schools are closing - what about my employees who have childcare responsibilities?
In normal circumstances it would not be appropriate for an employee to work from home whilst providing childcare. However, you may need to take a pragmatic and flexible approach in order to allow your employees to perform their duties.
10. Can I require my employees to take annual leave?
Yes, but you need to give notice of at least twice the length of the period of leave that the employee is being ordered to take.