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ACAS has published some guidance for employers in relation to management of the workplace, sickness absence procedures and sick pay in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. ACAS’ top tips include:

  1. Keep the workforce updated on company action to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. This may include undertaking a risk assessment for individuals with underlying health issues, or those who are vulnerable I they contract the virus, e.g. pregnant employees.
  2. Make sure that staff have provided you with the contact details of an emergency contact.
  3. Make sure that managers know how to spot the symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on the sickness absence procedure. employee’s can self-certify for the first 7 days of sickness absence. If they are self-isolating for longer than 7 days, they should obtain a fit note from the NHS website.
  4. Provide places for the individuals to wash their hands, with hot water and soap.
  5. Provide hand sanitiser and tissues to the workforce and encourage their use.
  6. Consider whether protective face masks are needed. However, Gov.co.uk guidance has stated that there is no medical evidence to prove that this method is effective.
  7. Assess whether plans for staff to travel are essential. If meetings have been scheduled in an affected area, employers should consider whether attendance can be satisfied via video link.
  8. Ensure that employees are social distancing within the workplace.

Sick pay during the coronavirus outbreak

An employer should exercise its normal sick pay procedure in instances of absence due to coronavirus.

Employees and workers must receive SSP due to them if they need to self-isolate because: they have coronavirus symptoms, someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms, or they have been told to self-isolate by a doctor of NHS 111.

Employees who do not want to attend work

If an employee refuses to attend work out of their fears of contracting the virus, an employer should investigate the concerns thoroughly. It should then act to protect the health and safety of the workforce and facilitate the employees return to work. If an employee still refuses to attend work, employers should consider allowing the employee to take unpaid leave, holiday, or homeworking.

If the employee still refuses to return to work, this can result in an employer engaging its disciplinary procedure. However, a dismissal is unlikely to be within the band of reasonable responses if the fear is genuinely held. A significant factor will be the length of time the employee has abstained from work.

  1. 100 Employment Rights Act 1996 states that a dismissal will be automatically unfair where an employee reasonably believed in serious and imminent danger if he attended work, which he could not avert.

Other considerations

Employers should address any poor treatment of employees whose nationality is an affected country, or individuals who contract the virus, in accordance with its disciplinary policy.

In the event of reduced workload, employers could consider putting employees on furlough leave and apply for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme grant which would reimburse the employer for 80% of the furloughed employees wages up to a cap of £2,500.”

If you would like more information or have any further questions please contact us.

Last updated: 20/04/2020

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.