What rights do you have if you can’t work or self-isolate to avoid catching or spreading the virus?
As the world continues to battle with novel coronavirus, the number of people infected keep on going up. At the time of writing, as many as 100,000 cases have been reported worldwide; with over 3350 deaths. According to the government, up to a fifth of the UK working population could be off sick at the height of the disease.
If you are a UK employee and want to know your legal rights in the wake of this infection, please read on. Here, we will answer some of the questions that you might have.
Have you just returned from an infected area?
According to the Home Office and the Government guidelines, people who have just returned to the UK from affected areas should self-quarantine, stay indoors and avoid contact with other people; even if you do not have any symptoms. If you have travelled to an infected area; against government advice and consequently cannot go to work, you may not get paid by your employer.
Will you be paid if you are in quarantine?
Whilst you may be able to come to an arrangement with your employer to work from home, there is no guarantee that you will be paid if you elect to self-isolate. However, it can be a lot more complicated if your presence is crucial such as working as a teacher or in a shop, then your employer can instruct you to stay at home, and you may get paid.
But companies are still advised to be sensitive in such situations and treat it as regular sick leave and continue paying the amount they would pay the employee for sick leave or annual leave. This is to ensure that an employee who could have been exposed does not feel pressured to go to work to collect a paycheck. This can put the health of other employees at risks and could cause a severe health hazard.
You are advised to have an honest discussion with your employer in case such a situation arises. It would help if you also let your employer know how long this situation will last; usually 14 days; so that the employer can make necessary arrangements.
Will you be paid if you are quarantined due to your area deemed epidemiologically at risk?
Employees are advised to self-certify or get instructions from a medical practitioner to self-quarantining themselves. If you have not been diagnosed but have been asked to self-isolate, you can arrange to work from home where you will receive your normal pay.
Absent for fear of being contagious?
Employers are not liable to pay if the employee decides to be absent for fear of being contagious. However, the general procedure here would be to get tested by calling 111 to understand if you need to be in self-quarantine. In this case, the employer may treat the absence as sick leave or paid holiday or even arrange to work from home.
Can you work from home – though it doesn’t state so in your contract?
If your contract does not have a clause regarding working from home, your employer must follow the best practices. Contact your HR manager to understand your rights in this case.
There are some basic guidelines in place to ensure that employees can get time off or work from home, depending on your company policies.
- Paid Sick Leave
Your contract must have explicit instructions related to sick pay that you are entitled to.
No employer can pay below the Statutory Sick Pay. A company can, however, have the policy to pay more, and it is known as company sick pay or contractual sick pay.
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
If your entitlement to sick pay is not specified in your contract, your employer should still pay the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). If any employee is absent from work for less than seven days, there is no need to produce a sick note unless otherwise stated in your contract. This is known as self-certifying the sickness time off.
The sick note is only applicable if you have been off work for more than seven days. The employers should be paying the mentioned amount in the contract or SSP in this case.
If you feel the need to be away from work for longer than seven days, you have to produce valid medical evidence.
Do you get paid if you are diagnosed and are advised to stay at home for two weeks (Sick Leave)?
If you have been medically diagnosed, then you are qualified to receive the minimum amount, that is Statutory Sick Pay, or the amount that your contract specifies on top of that.
The SSP is £94.25 every week, and it can be paid for as long as 28 weeks. The payment under SSP starts from the first day of the official diagnosis. Employees are allowed to self-certify if they come down with flu-like symptoms in case the sickness lasts less than seven days.
Will you still be paid if your company is closed as a result of the virus?
As of now, the situation in the UK does not prompt the need for closure of the workplace. But if your employer decides to remain closed for a certain period, they will mandatorily be responsible for updating all the employees when that happens.
Additionally, employers must make sure that employees know who to reach out in case of any concerns or questions. It is much more likely that work will not be stopped, and employees will be asked to work from home in such cases. The employer can likely ask the employees to take their work laptops or phones at home so they can continue delivering the assigned work and get paid as usual.
What if you have to care for someone else? Will you be paid then?
Employees could ask for emergency time off when someone close to them or dependent is sick or has a health emergency.
This specifically applies to the following situations:
- If schools are closed, and parents have to be available for childcare.
- If the children or any dependent are sick, in quarantine, isolation or hospital.
- There is no SSP in this case. However, employers are under no obligation to pay an employee. Over that, employees must apply for time off.
Once again, employees may choose to work from home, or your employer may allow you to take time off as a holiday.
What if you are self-employed and have contracted Coronavirus?
Unfortunately, the biggest downside of being self-employed is that you will not be entitled to SSP and in most cases, you won’t be paid if you don’t work. The Department of Work and Pensions has confirmed that you can claim universal credit if you are prevented from working and are at risk to public health. You may also be entitled to contributory Employment and Support Allowance.
What if you are made redundant as a result of Coronavirus?
Some employers are reducing the working hours of staff as a result of Coronavirus having a negative impact in a particular field of work, such as the travel industry. In the unfortunate circumstances that you are made redundant as a result of your workplace closing down, contact an employment lawyer. Knowing your legal rights is essential. We hope this article would have made you aware of the intricacies regarding your employment contracts.
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