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Dealing with Coronavirus in the workplace

The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) have created a useful guide to help employers and employees during the Coronavirus pandemic which advises on the necessary steps to take to protect the health and safety of staff members.

How can the risks be reduced for employees?

Employers should consider taking the following steps to significantly reduce the risk of coronavirus:

  • Encourage staff to work from home wherever possible and hold meetings via video or call conferencing.
  • Make sure all staff are social distancing if they come into the workplace.
  • All staff members should be regularly updated on the actions being taken to minimise the risks of exposure to coronavirus in the workplace.
  • Ensure all contact numbers and emergency contact details for all staff are up to date.
  • Managers should be given the appropriate training to ensure they recognise the symptoms of coronavirus and carry out the relevant procedures in the event that an employee develops the virus.
  • All staff should be encouraged to wash their hands regularly and employers should provide places where employees are able to wash their hands with hot water and soap.
  • Employers should consider distributing hand sanitisers and tissues around the workplace.

Are employees entitled to sick pay?

Employees and workers must receive any Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to them if they need to self-isolate because:

  • They have coronavirus
  • They have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
  • Someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
  • They’ve been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111

What can I do when an employee does not want to go to work?

Some employees may feel hesitant about going to work due to the fear of catching coronavirus. The employer should listen to these concerns and identify ways to resolve them to ensure they are protecting the health and safety of their staff. For example, employees should be given the options to either work from home or take some time off as holiday or unpaid leave.

When may an employer be required to close their workplace?

In the event that an employer will need to close their workplace temporarily, the employer must plan ahead to ensure they are prepared. For example, employees could, as an alternative, work from home during the closure.

Additionally, employers are expected to pay their employees provided that this is stated in their contracts of employment.

The government will be providing financial support for employees and self-employed workers who are temporarily sent home because there’s no work (‘furloughed workers’). Financial support for furloughed workers will be provided to employers through the ‘Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’.

Employers can only claim for furloughed employees that were on their PAYE payroll on or before 19 March 2020 and which were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020. Further details about this scheme and advice on how to claim can be found here.

The government has also published additional advice for employees, employers and businesses.

To speak to Tim Thompson about any aspect of employment law please call 01733 295 606 or email tim.thompson@hegarty.co.uk

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