Coronavirus – a guide for employers
As coronavirus has been spreading rapidly throughout the UK, employers should consider taking certain steps to protect health and safety of its staff.
Make sure that your sickness reporting procedures are up to date and all members of staff are familiar with it. Provide clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, as well as hand sanitisers and tissues.
Standard sick pay entitlements apply here as per contracts or the legal minimums.
Usually, a sick employee does not receive any payment for the first 3 days off. However, according to the government’s latest press release, Statutory Sick Pay will be paid from day 1 in the virus-related time off sick.
This will cover all workers, including agency staff and persons on flexible and zero-hours contracts. Furthermore, they do not need to earn over £118.00 to qualify for SSP.
Also, under government’s latest suggestion, if a person is advised by a doctor to self-isolate, they should receive SSP payments as well. If you offer contractual sick pay, you should pay this.
The employee/worker should inform you as soon as possible that they are unable to work, explain why and state how long thy are likely to be off for (if possible). Remember, that it may not be possible for the person to provide you with evidence immediately, for example if the self-isolation is to last 14 days.
What if an employee is not sick but I do not want them to attend work for health and safety reasons?
In such circumstances, you should pay them their usual wage.
What if one of my employees needs time to look after a dependant?
If they need to look after children, partner or another close family member, or they need to rearrange childcare because the school had closed, this is treated as emergency leave. Emergency leave is unpaid; however, some employers choose to pay it.
How long they are off, depends on the situation.
What if my employees simply refuse to come to work?
You need to find out if the employee’s concerns are genuine. You have a duty to protect your employees’ health and safety, therefore do not dismiss their worries but try to resolve them. Perhaps you can offer flexible working? Maybe they can work from home? Another option is to offer this time off as holiday or unpaid leave although you do not have to agree to this.
If the employee refuses to attend work, it can lead to a disciplinary action.
What if a person becomes ill at work?
If a person becomes unwell at work and has recently come back from an area affected by the virus, they should:
- Stay away from other people
- Avoid touching anything
- Use tissues when sneezing or coughing, and throw them away in a bin
- Use their own mobile to call 111 or 999
What if someone with coronavirus comes to work?
You don’t have to close the business; however, you should get in touch with the Public Health England (PHE) to carry out a risk assessment.
What if I need to close the workplace?
This is unlikely; however, you should have a plan B if worse comes to the worst.
Make sure your staff has a way of communicating with you and other people they work with. If they can work from home, make arrangements so that they can undertake their duties remotely.
If you do need to close, unless the contracts say otherwise, you still need to pay your employees’ wages as usual.
The government has also introduced emergency relief for small businesses if the total cost of sick pay becomes unsustainable.
A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses with a turnover of no more than £41 million to apply for a loan of up to £1.2 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees.
For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the cost of providing 14 days of statutory sick pay per employee will be refunded by the government in full.
A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.
There will be a £3,000 cash grant to 700,000 of our smallest businesses, delivered by Local Authorities.