Coronavirus - Know where you stand in regards to sick pay if you become ill or need to self isolate
With the increase in UK cases and publicity surrounding Coronavirus at fever pitch, the risk of you, or someone you know/work with, being affected in some way seems to be more and more likely, unfortunately, and so if you do find that you need to self isolate where do you stand with your employer?
Firstly, it's worth noting, that you have a duty of care towards your fellow workers! Health and safety is everyones business and so if you find yourself in a position where you need to self isolate, you are obliged to make sure that you do!
So what about pay?
2 weeks is a long time to be off work, and the confusion around what you should be paid has today, 4th March, been helped, a little, by a statement by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who has confirmed that workers who are told to self-isolate to prevent the spread of coronavirus will soon qualify for statutory sick pay from the first day they take off, not the fourth. The PM said that people who are self-isolating to protect others from the virus should not be "penalised for doing the right thing"
No timetable for the implementation of this new policy has been confirmed, however it is thought this would begin immediately, or certainly within days, which will be a relief to many, who up until this announcement, wouldn't be paid for the the first 3 days.
The extension in statutory sick pay relates to those self-isolating due to coronavirus. If you are off sick for any other reason, standard rules apply and statutory sick pay will kick in from day four, not day one.
You must be told to self-isolate to qualify for the additional sick pay. You can't just decide to self-isolate yourself - you must be told to do so by the NHS or a health professional, ( NHS 111 or a doctor), so just fancying a couple of weeks off work, probably isn't going to work!
Employers should, however, also be flexible about requiring evidence for sick leave from employees, for example if you're unable to provide a doctor's note due to being in self-isolation.
If you’re not unwell or in quarantine but your employer asks you not to come to work – for example, because you’ve recently been abroad to an affected area – you should receive your full pay, but, depending on your companies policies, you may still be required to work from home, where your job role allows for this.
If ill, Statutory sick pay is currently £94.25 per week. Your contract will will confirm how your employer will deal with sickness in regards to longer term illness. Many employers, including mine, will pay SSP for the first few days and then pay full pay for up to 2 weeks total (total for the year).
If you are ill with the Coronavirus and recover within the 2 weeks, your employer may then decide that they would prefer you to remain in isolation a little longer, and if so, this should then be at full pay, as this would be something they request, and therefore they would be required to pay you as normal.
It's good practice for employers to:
* Keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
* Make sure everyone's contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
* Make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace develops the virus
* Make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
* Provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
* Consider if protective face masks might help for people working in particularly vulnerable situations
* Consider if any travel planned to affected areas is essential
Employers must not single anyone out. For example, they must not treat an employee differently because of their race or ethnicity.
What If I need to take time off for a dependent?
Employees are entitled to time off work to help someone who depends on them (a 'dependant') in an unexpected event or emergency. This would apply to situations to do with coronavirus. For example: * If they have children they need to look after or arrange childcare for because their school has closed
* To help their child or another dependant if they're sick, or need to go into isolation or hospital
There's no statutory right to pay for this time off, but some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy. The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation. For example, they might take 2 days off to start with, and if more time is needed, they can book holiday.
What if I do want to go to work due to the risk of infection?
Some people might feel they do not want to go to work if they're afraid of catching coronavirus.
An employer should listen to any concerns staff may have.
If there are genuine concerns, the employer must try to resolve them to protect the health and safety of their staff. For example, if possible, the employer could offer flexible working.
If an employee still does not want to go in, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take the time off as holiday or unpaid leave. The employer does not have to agree to this.
If an employee refuses to attend work, it could result in disciplinary action.
What if someone with the virus comes to work?
If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the workplace does not necessarily have to close.
The local Public Health England (PHE) health protection team will get in contact with the employer to:
* Discuss the case * Identify people who have been in contact with the affected person * Carry out a risk assessment * Advise on any actions or precautions to take
Currently it's very unlikely that an employer will need to close their workplace. But they should still plan in case they need to close temporarily. For example, making sure staff have a way to communicate with the employer and other people they work with. Where work can be done at home, the employer could:
* Ask staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to take them home so they can carry on working
* Arrange paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computers
In some situations, an employer might need to close down their business for a short time.
Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, they still need to pay their employees for this time.
If the employer thinks they'll need to do this, it's important to talk with staff as early as possible and throughout the closure.
Self Employed People
People on low incomes, zero-hours contracts and the self-employed are among those who may not qualify for SSP.
Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay is able to claim Universal Credit and/or contributory Employment and Support Allowance, however with the average claim taking weeks to be paid, it's no surprise that many people, especially those self employed, may choose to go to work, as they simply can't afford not to be working, which then increases the chances of the virus being spread.
It is hoped that the following the PM's new measures, a separate initiative may be introduced to cover freelancers and the self-employed who are not currently entitled to SSP, although this is, by no means, guaranteed to happen.