Ed Hussey – People Solutions Director
Our clients are considering how to deal responsibly with the Coronavirus outbreak and the possible implications for staff and their reactions. A summary of current advice is below; please contact our People Solutions team for further HR support.
Reducing infection risks
Employers are encouraged to communicate with staff and provide facilities to help manage infection risks, including:
- Update everyone on actions you are taking to reduce exposure in the workplace.
- Encourage good hygiene practices around hand-washing and ensure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap available.
- Promote the message about using tissues to catch sneezes and coughs and immediately disposing of them.
- Place hand sanitisers / anti-bacterial wipes in key areas e.g. kitchens / photocopiers etc
- Consider whether up-coming business travel plans to affected areas is essential.
- Consider the extent to which you could, if necessary, facilitate home working where possible. What technical arrangements would you need to make and what policies would you need to communicate to employees about e.g. data security, health and safety, keeping in touch etc?
- Plan what you would do if someone at work showed symptoms. ACAS advice includes them going to a private room away from colleagues, using separate bathroom facilities if possible and using their own mobile phone to call NHS 111 for advice.
- Support your managers by advising them what to do if, for example:
- A member of their team is returning from an infected area –
- They think someone is showing symptoms.
- They are being asked about the company’s plans for coronavirus.
- They or their staff are planning business trips abroad.
Managing employee absences and costs to business
In the Budget on 11 March 2020 the government announced number of changes to support workers and businesses through the impact of coronavirus. Our guidance incorporates these measures:
If someone has coronavirus
Your normal absence reporting, sick leave and pay entitlements apply. However, be flexible with your requirement for evidence – they may be in quarantine or self-isolation and unable to get a fit note for 14 days.
With regard to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), the government have waived the normal three day waiting period to allow employees to receive payment from day one of sickness.
Whereas SSP is normally paid at the employer’s cost, the government has announced that it will meet the cost of providing statutory sick pay for up to 14 days for workers in companies with up to 250 employees.
If someone is not sick but has been told by a medical professional (GP/Dr) to self-isolate or is in quarantine
These employees will be entitled to SSP as a minimum, from day one of their absence. You should therefore treat them in line with your usual policies on paid sick leave.
Covid-19 Emergency bill
Updated as of 20th March 2020
This latest bill (currently in draft) sees the temporary suspension of waiting days for those employees who are absent from work due to Covid-19.
The Bill will allow guidance issued by Public Health England, National Health Services Scotland, Public Health Wales and the Regional Agency for Public Health and Social Well-being to be used when determining whether an employee should be deemed to be incapable of work by reason of Covid-19, for example because the employee is self-isolating. It is anticipated that the guidance will change frequently, and it is necessary to ensure that employees who self-isolate in accordance with whatever is the current guidance are deemed incapable for work and entitled to SSP from day one.
If an employee is not sick and has not been medically advised to self-isolate or placed in quarantine, but you nevertheless tell them not to come to work
You should pay them their usual salary.
If an employee is not sick but does not want to come to work due to coronavirus
Listen to their concerns and discuss the arrangements that you are putting in place to reduce infection risks at work. They may have legitimate concerns due to underlying health conditions or those of relatives they care for. Consider remote working, taking holiday or unpaid leave. If you believe the employee is unreasonably refusing to attend work, please seek advice before taking disciplinary action.
GIG workers and the self-employed i.e. those not entitled to SSP
The government has announced more help for through the welfare system and a hardship fund (more information to come).
More information and the latest updates on Coronavirus
For further and regularly updated information, go to: