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Friday, 31 January 2020 14:31

Coronavirus, Quarantine and Sick pay

Cases of Wuhan novel coronavirus, now officially names Covid-19, continue to rise with 9 cases confirmed in the UK. Official figures state that the number of global cases has now exceeded 73,000 with at least 1,870 deaths. Most of these cases are confined to mainland China and southeast Asia but there have been numerous cases reported in other countries including France and Germany, and now over 400 cases on-board the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. With an estimated incubation period of five days, the number of cases could potentially explode overnight.

Current figures suggest that Covid-19 won't be as deadly as previous outbreaks such as SARS, but the economic impact of the outbreak is already being felt in some countries and so businesses should take steps to protect themselves. With isolation for two weeks being the initial course of action for those suspected of being contaminated there are some aspects regarding pay that may affect individuals but which nobody else seems to be talking about.

We have failed to find any government guidelines around how employers should pay staff who are quarantined due to viral outbreaks like the one we are seeing with Covid-19. Strictly speaking, potential sufferers are not sick (yet), and therefore not subject to a doctor’s note keeping them off work. However, we should consider the potential threat and possible outcomes of not keeping an individual isolated if they are in a high-risk group or have been exposed to someone from a high-risk group.

Whilst deaths are relatively rare, having a large swathe of your workforce depleted due the flu-like symptoms of Covid-19, even just for just a few days, might be highly problematic for some businesses.

Should you find yourself in a position where a member of staff is quarantined, we recommend that you treat them the same as if they are sick and therefore follow sick pay rules. If you pay company sick pay, then continue to do so.

For those who only pay SSP, a significant drop in income for two weeks could be quite painful for employees so you might consider being a little more generous. Enhancing the paying of employees who are off work sick is usually discretionary anyway so you could continue to pay them, allow them to take the time off as holiday or carry out work from home if this is feasible for your business. Make it clear however that these decisions are a one-off due to exceptional circumstances.

In the meantime, and whilst we await further developments, it makes sense to take one or two extra precautions around the workplace, especially if the environment is one where multiple people share a space or where people are coming and going often. It’s cheap and easy to keep offices and work-spaces well ventilated and to keep hand sanitizer and disinfectant sprays to hand. Indeed, at this time of year when cough’s and sneezes are generally around more, it makes sense to implement a few quick wins to help keep your employees healthy anyway.

Hopefully the early diagnosis of the UK Covid-19 cases will help to keep the disease under control but we should remember that in such circumstances it’s up to everyone to remain vigilant and act decisively.

For further help and support with this or any other aspects of HR and Employment Law, please contact us on 01452 331331 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Read 1226 times Last modified on Tuesday, 18 February 2020 09:44

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