Coronavirus: Advice for employers and employees
In case coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads more widely in the UK, employers should consider some simple steps to help protect the health and safety of staff.
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.
The workplace's usual sick leave and pay entitlements apply if someone has coronavirus.
Employees should let their employer know as soon as possible if they're not able to go to work.
The employer might need to make allowances if their workplace sickness policy requires evidence from the employee. For example, the employee might not be able to get a sick note ('fit note') if they've been told to self-isolate for 14 days.
Find out more about self-isolating on GOV.UK.
If someone is not sick but cannot work because they're in self-isolation or quarantine
There's no legal ('statutory') right to pay if someone is not sick but cannot work because they:
- have been told by a medical expert to self-isolate
- have had to go into quarantine
- are abroad in an affected area and are not allowed to travel back to the UK
But it's good practice for their employer to treat it as sick leave and follow their usual sick pay policy or agree for the time to be taken as holiday. Otherwise there's a risk the employee will come to work because they want to get paid. They could then spread the virus, if they have it.
The employee must tell their employer as soon as possible if they cannot work. It's helpful to let the employer know the reason and how long they are likely to be off for.
If an employee is not sick but the employer tells them not to come to work
If an employee is not sick but their employer tells them not to come to work, they should get their usual pay. For example, if someone has returned from China or another affected area and their employer asks them not to come in.
If an employee needs time off work to look after someone
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.