Coronavirus COVID-19: FAQ’s- 18.03.20

Amy Owens

Written By Sarah Robinson, Technical HR Consultant

21st March 2020

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What should you do if someone attends work showing symptoms of Coronavirus but refuses to self-isolate?

  • If someone becomes unwell in work with symptoms which are a new continuous cough or high temperature then you should ask them to follow Government advice and self-isolate at home for 7 days.
  • Employees self-isolating will be entitled to SSP from Day 1.
  • If your company pays company sick pay and the employee is eligible then company sick pay should be applied.
  • If the employee refuses to go home, then discuss the reasons with them and consider alternatives such as working from home, if this is feasible. If a suitable alternative cannot be agreed you may want to consider suspending them as a precautionary measure. The employee will be entitled to their normal pay, unless your contract provides the right to suspend employees without pay for this reason, which is unlikely. If you send someone home without paying them, in the absence of a specific contractual provision this could lead to a claim for unlawful deduction from wages and breach of contract.
  • Assumptions that employees should be suspended because they may have the virus, solely on the basis of ethnic or racial background would be discriminatory and a breach of the employer of the implied term of trust and confidence.

How can you keep employees motivated whilst working from home?

There are advantages to working remotely, such as the comfort of your own home, being close to family, increased flexibility and in some cases increased productivity due to less distractions.

However, working remotely can sometimes stop people from getting into their usual work routine impacting motivation and productivity. Here’s some tips for your employees to boost motivation and help increase productivity for your employees.

  1. Make a home office that is suitably equipped, without distractions and provides easy access to the equipment and supplies needed
  2. Set ground rules with family or friends to ensure they do not interrupt you during working hours
  3. Wake up early and create a regular routine. Whilst it could be tempting to stay in bed, getting up in plenty of time and sticking to a routine should help motivation and avoid feeling overwhelmed or disorganised. Ensure tasks, regular breaks and meetings are scheduled
  4. Check in with colleagues. Employees can easily feel lonely when working from home so consider regular Skype or conference call facilities with colleagues and your manager
  5. Plan regular breaks to help stay focussed, revaluate workload and rest
  6. Get dressed. Wearing work clothes can boost confidence, motivation and productivity
  7. Eliminate distractions, for example put away a personal mobile
  8. Get a change of scenery for example going for a walk at lunch time
  9. End the day on time – avoid the temptation for work to creep into personal life

Can employees insist on working from home?

The latest government guidance is that employees work from home where possible. As responsible employers, to help reduce the spread of the virus, protect your employees and business, you should follow this guidance where possible.

However, some businesses cannot operate without staff being present and currently there is no automatic right to work from home.

Unless an employee is following government guidance to self-isolate, for example part of the vulnerable group identified by the government and pregnant, over 70, or has an underlying health condition identified, then you can request employees still come in to work.

If an employee who is not part of that vulnerable group refuses to come in to work then listen to the reasons for their request and if appropriate consider holiday pay or unpaid leave. If a suitable alternative cannot be agreed, you may consider disciplinary action.

Should employees with COVID-19 or self-isolating be paid company sick pay or SSP?

Employees should be paid SSP if they:

  • Have coronavirus
  • Are self-isolating because:
    • They have coronavirus symptoms such as a high temperature or persistent cough
    • Someone in their house has coronavirus
    • They have been told to self-isolate by NHS 111 or their doctor
  • Employees in vulnerable groups have not been advised to self-isolate, and therefore employees in those groups are not entitled to SSP.

SSP will be paid from Day 1 of their absence and if applicable, this will be applied retrospectively from 13 March

Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim SSP for employees unable to work because of Coronavirus. This refund will be for up to 2 weeks per employee.

If the employee is sick and your company pays Company sick pay and the employee is eligible then company sick pay should be paid.

Some of my employees are parents and their child’s school has been closed. Are they entitled to time off and will it be paid?

  • The Government has announced schools across the UK will close from the end of the day on Friday 20th March until further notice
  • Some schools will be expected to remain open to provide care for children of key workers needed to tackle the spread of the coronavirus
  • If employees can work from home then this would be paid as usual
  • If employees can work from home but do not have childcare, consider the age of the child and if it is reasonable for employees to be able to work whilst caring for their child
  • You can also consider being creative for example allowing employees to work outside normal working hours when they have childcare or their children are asleep, if this is feasible for your business
  • If employees cannot work from home then they may choose to take this time as holiday in which case the normal annual leave process and pay should apply
  • Employees could also be granted emergency leave or parental leave, which would normally be unpaid unless your company policy states otherwise
  • If the school has a confirmed case of Coronavirus then in line with Government guidance it would be advisable for the parent to self-isolate. If they can work from home then they would be entitled to normal pay, if they cannot work from home then they would be entitled to SSP from day one

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