COVID-19 | Guidance and advice for employers in institutions

COVID-19 | Guidance and advice for employers in institutions

Do we need to pay an employee sick pay if employees self-isolate in line with Public Health England Guidance?
Yes. If any employees self-isolate in accordance with the current Public Health England guidance, they are entitled to be paid in line with the institution’s sick pay policy in the usual way.

Do we need to pay employees sick pay if they have coronavirus and, if so, when do they become eligible for this?
Yes. If employees have been diagnosed with coronavirus they will be entitled to sick pay in the usual way. Whilst employees would not normally be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) within the first three days of their sickness absence, the government has announced plans to amend this, meaning that employees will receive SSP on day one of their sickness absence, but this change has yet to come into force.

Can we insist upon sick notes being provided by employees?
A sick note is not required for the first seven days of sickness absence. After that, employers can require a sick note from the employee’s GP. However, it is sensible for institutions to use their discretion regarding employees being in a position to submit sick notes. In view of the Public Health England advice for individuals not to attend GP surgeries or hospitals with suspected cases of the virus, it may be that employees are unable to obtain a sick note. Therefore, it is advisable to exercise discretion and to not demand sick notes to evidence diagnosis or a period of self-isolation.

Do we need to pay employees full pay if we have told them not to come into work?
Yes. If you have made the decision to tell employees who are not sick and are capable of attending work in the usual way not to come into work, they should receive their usual full pay.

What if an employee isn’t sick but needs to care for a sick or quarantined child or other dependent?
Employees are entitled to unpaid time off work to care for a dependent in an unexpected emergency. Clearly a child or other dependent who has been diagnosed with coronavirus would fall into this category.

How you pay employees in this situation depends upon the facts and how the institution wishes to approach the situation. If the employee requires time off to care for a dependent and the employee is fit and well, they would usually have unpaid time off. However, if an employee is caring for a dependent who has been diagnosed with coronavirus, the employee will need to be in self-isolation themselves and, again, it is sensible for institutions to exercise discretion and pay sick pay to prevent employees from seeking to attend the workplace in between caring for the dependent if they are not receiving pay.

What do we do about employees who simply do not want to attend work?
Institutions should listen to the employee’s concerns and fully consider them. If the concerns raised are genuine, institutions should consider the health and safety obligations they owe to their staff and should seek to resolve these concerns. Flexible working arrangements may come into operation here, to enable the employee to continue working whilst not needing to come into the workplace – which is government advice – ie work from home if you can.

Where an employee’s concerns are not genuine or, after discussions, they still do not want to come into work and cannot work from home, provided they have not been told to self-isolate or diagnosed with coronavirus, institutions may wish to discuss whether the employee wishes to take the period of absence as annual leave or unpaid leave. However, it is important to note that an employer does not have to agree to this and, where an employee is unreasonably refusing to attend work, this could lead to disciplinary action.

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