The government has advised that up to a fifth of the UK’s workforce could be off sick at the same time during the peak of the coronavirus, meaning it could be as high a 6m.
The prime minister warned that it is “highly likely” the UK will have further infections in the governments’ latest plans.
Boris Johnson said the government are committed to doing “everything possible” to “prepare for all eventualities,” adding, “We need everyone to listen to and act on official medical advice.”
The prime minister said, “That’s why keeping the country safe is the government’s overriding priority, and our plan means we are committed to doing everything possible, based on the advice of our world-leading scientific experts, to prepare for all eventualities.”
He added, “But at this stage… I want to stress that for the vast majority of the people of this country, we should be going about our business as usual.”
Blair Adams, Partner at Winckworth Sherwood said, “The prediction that up to a fifth of UK workers could be off sick at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak means that businesses and other organisations are going to be stretched in a variety of ways, including in terms of workforce planning.
“In these early stages, most employers have been taking a benevolent and socially responsible approach to low levels of COVID-19-related absence, such as self-isolation, treating it as exceptional and involuntary. However, employers may soon need to consider their longer-term approach to a number of people-related issues.
“Technology has a big part to play for businesses that can impose remote working or foreign travel bans but for many organisations, remote working is impossible or only marginally significant.
“Businesses could potentially have to deal with mass sickness absences, potentially unsafe workplaces and employees who need time off because of school closures or who are unwilling to travel to work for fear of infection.
“These novel circumstances will bring to the fore legal issues that do not arise in business as usual operations.”