As the likelihood of more cases of Coronavirus in the UK increases, ACAS has published advice for employers on dealing with the situation. The guidance covers how to deal with employees who have the virus and those who do not want to come into work because they are worried about catching it.
In summary, ACAS have advised that employers need to take steps to help protect employees’ health and that if a business needs to shut down temporarily, employees still need to be paid during the closure.
“Our new advice aims to help them handle the impact of coronavirus at work. It includes guidance around sick leave, staff in quarantine and considerations for businesses in case they need to temporarily shut down.”
Susan Clews, Chief Executive ACAS
The ACAS guidance says:
• normal sick pay policies apply if an employee has the virus
• if an employee is not sick and the organisation tells them not to come into work – for example, if they have recently travelled to an affected country – then they should receive their usual pay
• if an employee is not sick but cannot work because they have been told by a doctor to self-isolate or have been quarantined, it is good practice for an employer to treat this situation as sick leave or to offer the employee the option to take the period as annual leave.
ACAS also offers advice on how to deal with employees who do not want to come into work because they are concerned about catching the virus. In these circumstances ACAS says employers should:
• listen to employees’ concerns
• consider flexible working arrangements such as homeworking
• offer them the option to take annual leave or unpaid time off.
The advice also includes some simple steps all employers can take to protect workers’ health:
• ensure managers know how to spot symptoms of the virus and are clear on sickness reporting and sick pay and leave procedures
• give out hand sanitiser and tissues to staff
• consider if any planned travel to affected areas is essential
• encourage staff to wash their hands regularly.
Finally, ACAS says employers should have a plan in place in case they need to temporarily close the workplace, for example:
• Ask staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to take them home so they can work from home.
• Make sure staff have a way to communicate with their colleagues if they need to work from home.
• Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date.
Should a business need to shut down temporarily, the starting point is that employees should be paid as normal for this time albeit there may be some exceptions to this.
If you have any queries relating to this or any other employment law topic please do not hesitate to get in touch.
David Philip Harris is a recognised employment solicitor with over 10 years of experience in advising employees and employers on employment law matters. He is a frequent contributor to BBC Radio Berkshire and People Management Magazine. David has represented individual and corporate clients in the employment tribunal as well as the High Court and County Court. David is a member of The Law Society and The Employment Lawyers Association (ELA UK). To contact David, visit the Contact Us page. For media enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.