Dealing with the Coronavirus: Practical advice

Xeinadin Group presents advice for employers on dealing with the worldwide growth of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and what it might mean for your business. Get the latest updates on the developments in our daily updated blog.

Written on March 4, 2020 by Xeinadin Group

While the current risk of acquiring Coronavirus in the workplace is relatively low, there is a possibility that businesses may have to respond to the virus when it comes to sick leave, quarantine, or selective leave. 

If an employee is sick…

Should an employee become sick (whether with the Coronavirus or another illness), they are entitled to their usual sick pay. It is the employee’s responsibility to alert their employer if they are unable to work, and you may need to be lenient in your policies regarding doctor’s notes. It is becoming common that people are self-isolating when they become ill, and in such can’t go to the hospital. 

In the case of self-isolation or quarantine…

The legal responsibility of an employer to pay sick pay is limited to sickness, which means that if someone has been told to self-isolate, has been quarantined, or are blocked from working thanks to travel bans. However, it’s a good idea to regard it as sick leave or as a holiday so that the employee is not pressured to return to work and risk spreading the virus. 

There is a risk that an employee may want to return to work, but if you deem it unsafe, you can suspend the employee on the grounds of health and safety. If this is the case, you should pay the employee as normal.

If you think an employee shouldn’t come to work, even if they aren’t sick…

You might want to consider telling an employee not to come to work if they have recently travelled to a risk area or have been in close contact with a confirmed patient. In this case, the employee should receive their normal wages.

If an employee needs to care for someone…

Should an employee need time off to care for someone ill who depends on them, you are not required to pay them their usual wages. These situations may include caring for dependent children or providing childcare should normal centres close. 

As a general rule, it is best to put the health and safety concerns of yourself and your staff first. Genuine concerns should be met receptively; try and negotiate with employees who don’t want to work. Unpaid leave or holidays may be an option, but you don’t have an obligation to agree. If an employee continually refuses to work, disciplinary action may be necessary.

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