Home Business News How London businesses can reduce the impact of coronavirus

Reducing the risk to employees

Employers should be sending guidance to all employees to encourage them to be extra-vigilant. Documents should cover everything from washing your hands, to disposing of tissues and self-isolation.

If possible, employers should also consider designating an isolation room where an employee who feels ill can go and privately call 111 before taking any further necessary action.

In the event an employee is diagnosed with Coronavirus, or if they have been exposed to the virus and/or develop symptoms, employers should treat them fairly, compassionately and in line with your own Sickness Absence procedure.

An employee has visited, or plans to visit, a high-risk area. What should they do?

Employers may ask employees about their travel plans provided they do so in a non-discriminatory or prejudicial way. Employers should not make assumptions based on race, nationality or ethnic background.

Employees should be informed that anyone who visits a high-risk area must obey the World Health Organisation guidelines and government travel information: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice

Anyone who experiences symptoms of Coronavirus must obtain urgent medical advice and, where possible, provide a fit note to cover their period of sickness absence.

Where an employee is not sick, but the employer insists that they remain away from the workplace as a precautionary measure, they should be paid as normal.

What if employees refuse to come to work?

Where an employee refuses to attend work due to concerns about Coronavirus in circumstances where they have not been diagnosed or directly exposed to it, the employer should listen to their views and provide reassurance as far as possible.

An employer can permit home-working, where feasible. Alternatively, the employee could request holiday or unpaid leave which would be subject to the employer’s agreement as normal.

When employers do not agree to the request to remain away from the workplace, and employees have not been advised to self-quarantine and are not experiencing Coronavirus symptoms, organisations may treat their refusal to attend work as an unauthorised absence and act appropriately.

If an employee is not sick but in quarantine or self-isolation, are they entitled to sick pay?

If an employee has been advised by a medical professional to self-isolate, they will qualify for sick pay. The Prime Minister has announced that Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will be paid from the first day of illness under emergency legislation. Current laws dictate workers are not entitled to SSP until they have taken four or more days in a row off work. It is hoped that this will reduce the risk of employees with the virus coming to work because they are not being paid.

In the event of a large-scale outbreak in the UK

Businesses which are forced to close or experience a downturn in work due to reduced demand for goods and services, may have to consider introducing short-time working, temporary lay-offs or, in extreme cases, redundancies.

In order to implement temporary lay-offs or short-time working, there must be a clause within the individual employee’s contract of employment permitting the decision.

Law at Work will continue to monitor the situation. If you need help for your business in relation to HR support, please visit www.lawatwork.co.uk/london and get in touch.

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