Coronavirus – businesses and employees

Award-winning Dorset law firm Blanchards Bailey LLP has produced guidance for businesses with regard to the coronavirus.

After receiving lots of questions about the outbreak, the firm thought it would be helpful to give some general guidance on how business can help to protect themselves from disruption to their workforce.

How can you reduce the risk to your employees?

Best practice would be to send an email or guidance note to all staff encouraging them to be extra-vigilant with washing their hands, using and disposing of tissues, and avoiding shaking hands etc.

If you have the capacity to do so, it may be worth designating an ‘isolation room’ where an employee who feels ill can go and sit away from the rest of the company and access NHS 111 online, or privately call ‘111’ if they can’t access the internet, before taking any further necessary action.

Current Government advice is that, where possible, staff should consider working from home. As such, it would be a good idea to update, or put in place, suitable ‘working from home’ policies to help your staff comply with your expectations of them whilst they are remote working.

If an employee is not sick but is in quarantine or self-isolation, do you have to pay them sick pay?

New regulations came into force on March 13 providing that those in self-isolation or quarantining to prevent the spread of coronavirus are entitled to SSP. Regulations providing for the payment of SSP from Day 1, rather than Day 4, are in the pipeline but have not yet been published.

What if employees do not want to come to work?

Some people may be worried about catching coronavirus and therefore unwilling to come into work. If this is the case you should listen carefully to the concerns of your employees and if possible, offer flexible working arrangements such as homeworking.

Employees can also request time off as holiday or unpaid leave but there is no obligation on employers to agree to this. If an employee refuses to attend work, you are entitled to take disciplinary action, but doing so would be extremely risky in the current circumstances given the risk of such a decision being deemed unfair.

Changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) recovery

In March’s budget, the Government announced that the cost of SSP payments for coronavirus affected employees can be reclaimed from HMRC by companies with less than 250 employees.

Whilst this information is correct at the time of publishing, we appreciate that the situation is changing on a daily basis. Over the next few months, business’ policies, procedures, contingency plans and workforces as a whole are likely to be tested to their limits.

As always, the HR and Employment Law team at Blanchards Bailey is here to offer support and guidance throughout this difficult time. We can provide you with up to date advice that is tailored to your business, as well as a dedicated HR advice line to answer your questions as and when they arise. 

Blanchards Bailey

So, how can we help?

Whatever your requirements, our team is standing by.

Call us today on
01258 459361