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Friday, 28 February 2020 15:56

Coronavirus Update & FAQs

At the risk of repeating information you may have already heard from other sources regarding the Covid-19 coronavirus, we thought an update would be a good idea so that we are confident that we have given full advice to our clients and contacts.

The UK Chief medical officers have raised the risk in the UK from low to moderate. The situation is so fluid we strongly recommend that the government’s latest information and advice is checked and applied. Check it at least daily at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

We recommend having a plan and some rules in place now and that they are communicated to all staff. You don’t want to be in the position should the worst happen that you and your team are floundering around because no-one knows what to do. Cancelling business trips to high risk areas should be high on your list and you may consider your options for homeworking.

We’ve compiled something of an FAQ list from an employers perspective that should help you to make a judgement on what action you need to take and when:

Q. What are my responsibilities towards my staff.
A. Duty of care is the key phrase here. You should take reasonable staff to keep you employees safe whilst they are working for you so make your team aware of NHS guidance (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/) and make sure they have opportunity to apply it. Post information in prominent places. Make sanitizer available for example and allow more time for staff to wash their hands more frequently.

Q. Should I send staff home?
A. Again the NHS guidance will help but generally send staff home who have symptoms or who are unwell. You might also consider asking staff who have recently returned from high risk areas to stay at home and self-quarantine for two weeks.

Q. Do I need to pay staff I send home or keep away from work?
A. This is a grey area because being in quarantine isn’t the same as being sick. Obviously if someone is unwell then they are entitled to SSP or company sick pay if you provide it. If you have asked someone to self-quarantine, because they have recently returned from abroad perhaps, and they can’t work from home then you probably need to pay them; through moral obligation if nothing else. If an employee is quarantined by force, under the public health protection rules, then strictly speaking you don’t have to pay them but they may be able to claim Universal Credit.

Q. What if staff can’t get home because their flight home from Tenerife has been cancelled, for example?
A. This is a similar to the flight cancellation issue we had a few years ago when the Icelandic volcano erupted. You’re not obliged to pay staff if they don’t turn in to work. They you be paid at least SSP if they are genuinely ill or you might negotiate allowing them to take more holiday days or agree a period of unpaid leave.

Q. Do I have to pay staff who are absent because their child’s school is closed
A. You have to allow staff time off to deal with dependants, but this doesn’t need to be paid. You also wouldn’t expect you member of staff to be absent indefinitely. The time off should be used to make alternative care arrangements for their child or dependant.

Q. What if staff can’t work because components are not available from locked-down countries.
A. This is a scenario where a lay-off clause in contracts might come into force. You could temporarily lay staff off and not be obliged to pay them if you have no work for them. You must have a lay-off clause to enforce this however.

Ultimately, it’s your choice whether or not you continue paying staff who are not strictly entitled to it, but as we always say, consistency is key. Treating members of staff differently could potentially open a whole other can of worms. Generally staff will want to come to work if they are able so you might find yourself insisting that staff stay at home if they are high risk due to exposure or travel for example.

As an island nation the UK has some advantages in minimising the potential for an outbreak but if the worst does happen, expect a raft of new guidelines. It might be worth considering how a worse case scenario would affect your business and plan what you could do to mitigate losses.

As usual contact us for further advice on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Read 591 times Last modified on Friday, 28 February 2020 16:06

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