Coronavirus: advice for employers

Lizzi Rutter

HR Business Partner

The risk of catching coronavirus (COVID-19) in workplaces is currently low. However, businesses may be forced to send employees home and must also be prepared for instances of employees quarantining themselves. So, what does that mean for you as employers?

Sick Pay

Usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply if someone has coronavirus. Employees should let you know as soon as possible if they’re not able to go to work.

You might need to make allowances if your sickness policy requires a sick note from the employee. For example, the employee might not be able to get to the doctors if they have been told to self-isolate for 14 days.

If an employee is not sick but cannot work because they’re in self-isolation or quarantine

There’s no legal (statutory) 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’s good practice for you to treat it as sick leave and follow your pay policy or agree for the time to be taken as holiday. Otherwise there is a risk the employee will come to work because they want to get paid. They could then spread the virus if they have it.

If an employee is adamant they wish to return to work, you may decide to suspend the employee on health and safety grounds. In such cases the employee would be paid as normal. Alternatively, you could arrange for them to work from home if this is a viable option.

If an employee is not sick but you tell them not to come to work

Employees are entitled to their usual pay if you ask them not to attend work when they are not sick. For example, if someone has returned from China or another affected area and you ask them not to attend work.

If an employee needs time off work to look after someone

Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations to do with coronavirus. For example:

  • If they have children, they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed.
  • To help their child or another dependant if they’re sick or need to go into isolation or hospital.

There’s no statutory right to pay for this time off.

If employees have concerns for their health

Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they’re afraid of catching coronavirus. If there are genuine concerns, you must try to resolve them to protect the health and safety of your staff.

If an employee still does not want to attend work, they may be able to arrange with you to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. You do not have to agree to this.

If an employee refuses to attend work, it could result in disciplinary action.

How Hallidays can help

If you would like further advice on sick pay and supporting employees that are affected, please contact our HR team on 0161 476 8276 or email to learn more about how we can support you and your team.

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