If you are a worker or employee who has, or suspects that they may have symptoms of, Coronavirus (COVID-19) then the first port of call will be to check your employment contract and staff handbook to see what the notification requirements are when you are off sick.
If you are too unwell to work then you will be entitled to sick pay in accordance with your contract of employment. This may be contractual sick pay or statutory sick pay, depending on your own specific employment terms. Statutory Sick pay entitlement has been increased to cover employees from the first day of absence. Previously there were three waiting days and statutory sick pay was only payable from day four. Statutory Sick Pay is currently payable at a rate of £94.25 per week.
The same qualifying criteria still applies for eligibility for Statutory Sick pay. This means the self-employed and those earning below the lower weekly earnings limit of £118 per week, for example, would not qualify for this payment.
If you have symptoms, but are not too unwell to work then you will need to speak to your employer. You may be asked:
- To stay away from your workplace and take the time as sick leave (for which you may receive contractual sick pay or statutory sick pay, as above). You are deemed ‘incapable of work’ for the purposes of entitlement to Statutory Sick pay where you are self isolating in accordance with the guidance provided by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland and Public Health Wales.
- To work from home, where possible. Your employment terms remain as before, you simply undertake the tasks from home. You should receive your normal remuneration for this.
You should not be asked to take annual leave where you are genuinely unwell, but in these circumstances you may want to ask your employer if you can use annual leave so that you receive full pay for this period.
In addition to being unwell yourself, if you have caring responsibilities, then you may also need to take time off. If, for example, a dependant family member is unwell or schools are closed. Again, you would need to discuss the options with your employer, but you may be asked:
- To work from home, where possible. Your employment terms remain as before and you simply undertake the tasks from home.
- To take emergency time off to care for a dependant. This may or may not be paid leave depending on your contract terms. At present emergency time off to care for a dependant covers a short period of time to arrange alternative caring arrangements. However, in light of potential suggestions that grandparents may be asked to self-isolate, or schools close, the definition of ‘emergency time off’ may need to be reviewed, as alternative care may be difficult to arrange.
- To take annual leave.
Finally, if your workplace is affected your employer may decide that they need to close for a period. This may be of their own volition (for a deep cleanse, for example) or on the advice of Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland and Public Health Wales. Advice to employers regarding this is being updated on a regular basis. In these circumstances, you may be asked:
- To work from home, where possible. Your employment terms remain as before, you simply undertake the tasks from home.
- To take annual leave.
- If your contract permits, your employer may impose a period of lay-off. This is only permissible where such a arrangement is already provided for in your contract of employment. You should check your contract to see what the pay provisions are during a period of lay off. Unless your contract provides for enhanced payment, you would be entitled to the Statutory Guarantee payment which is a maximum of £29.00 per day. This is payable for up to 5 days.
As with the virus itself, there is much uncertainty surrounding the current situation and the provisions relating to employment law are continually changing and being updated. The advice provided above is accurate as at 16 March 2020, but with daily briefings from the Government now expected, this advice is likely to change in the coming days and weeks ahead.
Beecham Peacock Solicitors