So, what do you pay employees who are not at work due to the coronovirus and particularly if they are self quarantined?
- If staff are not unwell themselves but are quarantined (self isolation) because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronovirus, they are entitled to SSP provided they have been instructed to self quarantine by a doctor or by 111. You may need to be pragmatic about your staff member obtaining a sick certificate, doctors and 111 are very busy at the moment and have little or no spare time to sign sick certificates. For those who are interested, the applicability of SSP (Statutory Sick Pay) to quarantine periods comes from the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 recently supplemented by the Health Protection (Coronovirus) Regulations 2020.
- If a member of staff is displaying symptoms of coronovirus they should, of course, be on sickness absence and paid SSP in the normal way. The Regulations require that you pay SSP from Day 4 of any sickness absence. It has been mooted in the press that for coronovirus SSP should begin on Day 1, however there is no formal instructions from Government as yet. If the Regulations are changed then this post will be updated.
- If a member of staff is unable to come to work because their children or other dependents are unwell or, for example, the school is suddenly closed for a deep clean then the Statutory Right to Time Off for Dependents is applicable. That is time off to in order to make alternative arrangements to care for the child or dependent. In normal circumstances that should just be a day or so. There is no right to be paid for Time Off for Dependents but, of course, you may choose to do so. If you do decide to pay staff who are taking Time Off for Dependents please make sure you do so in an equitable manner – either pay everyone who needs to take that time off or pay no one. Remember, it is unlawful to treat fixed term contractors, part time staff or agency staff less favourably than other staff so don’t have a policy that is better for full time permanent staff than for other staff.
- If you have staff who decide they do not want to come to work for fear of getting coronovirus then they are absent without leave which is, of course, a disciplinary matter. Managing staff discipline is a matter of reasonableness and therefore you should be able to show that you have done everything reasonable and practical to ensure that coming to work is safe – so following all the instructions set out by Government is the minimum. The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 requires that you do everything reasonable and practical to ensure the health, safety and welfare of your staff so following government instructions by swabbing door handles, hard surfaces, telephones, making sure there is appropriate soap for hand washing etc and, if possible, allowing staff to work from home are all things that will show you are a reasonable employer and complying with your obligations under the 1974 Act.
Let us remember that of the 66.4 million people in the UK only a tiny number have succumbed to coronovirus and a vast majority of those recover in a short period of time. Whilst we need to do everything possible to prevent an epidemic we do not need to move into panic mode. We can work together to contain the virus and keep Haslemere open for business.