Blog

Coronavirus and your workers

Coronavirus and your workers

As Coronavirus continues to make global headlines, protecting your employees, as well as your operations, will require businesses to take a flexible and practical approach.

With the number of people being held in resorts or experiencing delays to their flights home continuing to rise, employers and employees must open lines of communication at an early stage to reduce exposure to unnecessary risk and business disruption.

As well as health concerns, many workers are worrying about exceeding their annual holiday allowance and how it will impact their pay.

But what can be done?

Communicate

Employees need to maintain an open line of communication with their employer if travel problems mean they are forced to extend their holiday. If this is the case, it will mean that their absence from work will technically be classed as unauthorised.

Be practical

Both parties have a responsibility to manage unexpected absences in a practical way.

Employees must take ownership and address the reasons for their absence by communicating openly and frequently with their employer.

Employers should also offer support and options that don’t exacerbate the issue. For example, there are a number of approaches that employers can choose to take when dealing with unforeseen absenteeism, which include:

  • The employee makes up the time elsewhere and pay is uninterrupted
  • The employer accepts that holiday has been exceeded but requires no repayment
  • An agreement is made for the employee to use annual leave time to cover the absence
  • The employer allows the employee to take the time as unpaid leave

Be open

Despite disruptions such as cancelled flights or quarantine measures being out of the employee’s hands, workers have a duty to inform their employer why they have been unable to attend work.

Employers also have a duty of care to keep their people safe.

Be flexible

With remote working and digital infrastructure in place, there are very few barriers that prevent both parties from opening up a line of communication and sharing information as soon as a problem arises.

Many business owners will rightly be putting their employee wellbeing front and centre when making these decisions, so encouraging flexible practices such as working from home or abroad should be welcomed.

Acas guidance also suggests that working from home should be offered as an option for those who are choosing to ‘self-quarantine’.

Be reasonable

When dealing with a potentially lethal virus, the last thing employees and business owners want to be worrying about is pay, so it is important to know where both parties stand.

When an employee doesn’t make it to work as agreed, pay is not automatically reduced and unless provided for in the contract of employment, it can be particularly difficult for the employer to recover that overpayment. However, where employees have extended their time away due to travel disruptions, they should not expect to be paid for the time missed.

On their return to work, employees need to be prepared to agree the arrangements for the unplanned absence and any arrangements for the employee to repay the overpaid holiday sum or to work the time owed, with their employer.

Be sensible

Missing work due to an air strike is technically a breach of contract due to the employee exceeding the agreed paid annual leave time. However, most employers are practical and accept that travel disruptions may leave an employee with no option but to miss work. For both the employer and employee it is about finding a sensible and responsible solution.

For more information please contact Phil Pepper on 0116 257 440, or another member of the employment team in your local office.
For advice or guidance on any other commercial or legal issue, a member of our team can walk you through everything. Click here to discuss.