Coronavirus Q&A’s for Employees

Due to the uncertainty caused by the outbreak of the Coronavirus, please find below some of the questions we have been asked most frequently. These should be read alongside Government advice:

I am ill or have been told to self-isolate, will I still be paid?

  • If you been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are displaying symptoms of the virus then you will be paid entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”). Employers might offer more than SSP if they have a company sick pay scheme. They cannot offer less.
  • If you are self-isolating in accordance with the new government guidance, then you will also be entitled to SSP. New legislation states that that a person is deemed incapable of work where he is “isolating himself from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with Coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland(d) or Public Health Wales(e) and effective on 12th March 2020.”

When will my sick pay start?

  • For affected individuals, SSP will be payable from day 1 instead of day 4 of the absence. These changes in legislation will be a temporary measure to respond to the outbreak and will lapse when they are no longer required.

Do I need a sick note if I am self-isolating?

  • By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness; employees can self-certify. To make it easier for affected individuals to provide evidence to their employer after day 7 that they need to stay at home, an alternative form of evidence to the fit note is currently being developed. These will shortly be available through NHS 111 online.
  • If you are unable to provide evidence, speak to your employer as ACAS have suggested that employers should be flexible at this time.

Work have asked me to stay at home, will I still get paid?

  • If you fall within the remit of government advice to self-isolate, then it is likely you will be paid SSP or contractual sick pay.
  • If you do not fall within the remit of government advice to self-isolate and are willing and able to perform your work from home, then it is likely you will be paid full contractual pay. An employer is under an obligation to pay wages to employees who are willing and able to perform their work.
  • If you are working under the terms of a casual/zero-hour employment contract, your employer is not obligated to provide you with work and if you are not provided with work you will not be entitled to be paid. In this situation, the government have advised to apply for Universal Credit.

Can work change my sick-pay entitlement?

  • Where your sick pay entitlement is set out in your employment contract, to amend this will amount to a variation of contract. If under your employment contract you are entitled to enhanced sick pay, then your employer would have to change the terms of your employment contract in order to only pay you SSP. Your employer can only do this with your agreement. If you did not agree to this, they would have to dismiss you and re-hire you under a different employment contract. Under these circumstances you may have claims in the Employment Tribunal.
  • If your sick pay entitlement is not set out in your employment contract, your employer may change the terms and they should confirm the change to you in writing.

Can I refuse to go to work?

  • If you are worried about contracting the virus at work or on your commute to work, speak to your employer. You may be able to make arrangements with them such as working from home or flexible working patterns so that you do not have to commute at peak times, taking holidays or unpaid leave.
  • If you are a person who is deemed to be at high risk and are classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010, your employer compelling you to attend work may amount to discrimination. Advise your employer of this and try to find a solution for both you and your employer. Failure to make reasonable adjustments for you may also be classed as discrimination.
  • Where there is no element of discrimination and the government advice is that you could reasonably be asked to continue to attend work then you could be investigated for misconduct on the basis that you failed to follow a reasonable management instruction, and due to your unauthorised absence. An employee would likely not be entitled to pay where their absence is unauthorised.

I need time off to look after someone in my family, am I allowed this?

  • If you need time off work to care for a dependant, you are entitled to time off in an emergency (events such as childcare because of school closures or to help care for a dependent in self-isolation will class as an emergency). Unless stated in your employment contract, you would not be entitled to be paid for this however ACAS guidance provides that some employers might offer pay depending on what is set out in the employment contract or workplace policy.
  • The length of time you take off work to care for someone else must be reasonable. This may be a couple of days to sort out care arrangements, however as these events are unprecedented, employers may be more flexible.

Can my work compel me to use my holidays?

  • Employers can compel employees to use their holiday entitlement. If the employer does decide to do this, they must tell staff at least twice as many days before as the amount of days they need people to take. For example, if they want to close for 5 days, they should tell everyone at least 10 days before.

Useful Links to help you keep updated 

We recommend that you keep up to date with the latest information and current guidance by following the links above. At Consilia Legal we have four qualified Employment solicitors in Leeds who are available to discuss any queries you may have at this difficult time. Please feel free to contact us on 0113 322 9222 or at enquires@consilialegal.co.uk.

18th March 2020

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