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Corona Virus – Employment Rights.

The coronavirus has now been seen in more than 50 countries worldwide, including the UK, where the government is currently issuing advice on how to stop the spread of the virus. This advice includes simple hygiene tips such as washing your hands and using sanitiser to self-isolation and the potential for schools and universities to be closed.

At present, Britons who have arrived home from quarantined Italian towns are being advised to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they don’t have any symptoms.

With the risk of self-isolation now a potential concern for many people in the UK following holidays and school trips, we discuss some of the main employment questions that may arise.

I have been told to self-isolate, will I still be paid?

The Prime Minister has announced that employees who self-isolate, where there is good reason to do so, will be entitled to sick pay from day one rather than waiting until day four as is usually the case. This is a temporary measure put in place so that those assisting in stopping the spread of the virus are not penalised.

ACAS has advised that an employer should treat ‘self-isolation’ as sick leave or agree for the time to be taken as holiday. It is likely that most employers would pay sick leave, for fear an employee may come into work as they cannot afford to be at home, and in doing so, potentially risk infecting further people with the virus.

If you are able to work remotely from home, then your role should be able to carry on as normal.

My child has been told to self-isolate, and I need to take time off work to care for them. Will I get paid?

Many parents are now facing the possibility that they will have to stay at home and look after a child who has recently returned from a school trip. In Derbyshire, Burbage school in Buxton has closed following a confirmed case of coronavirus amongst the parent population.

In this event, your employer will have to grant you reasonable time off work. However, unless otherwise stated in your contract you are unlikely to be entitled to paid leave. If you are paid, then you may be asked to make up the time later. You could also consider using up some of your holiday allowance.

Again, being able to work remotely from home would be the best solution in this scenario.

I am stuck abroad and cannot work remotely.

In this scenario, an employer may continue to pay you on a discretionary basis. However, it is more than likely that you will be asked to take the time as unpaid leave or annual leave.

I don’t want to attend work as I’m worried about contracting coronavirus.

Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their employees. If an employer believes that the risk is low and that employees are safe to continue working, then you will be expected to be at work. If you decide to self-isolate as a precautionary measure and have not been asked to do by a medical professional, or your boss, then you are unlikely to be paid.

It may be possible to take the time off as annual leave or unpaid leave if you are particularly worried.

How can employers protect their employee’s health and safety?

  • Educate your staff, this can be done via an email or with posters around the workplace advising staff of current government advice
  • Provide hand sanitiser and encourage regular and thorough hand washing
  • Ensure cleanliness of communal areas such as kitchens, toilets and staff rooms
  • Ensure that members of staff with coronavirus symptoms do not come into work
  • Allow ‘at-risk’ employees to work remotely from home where possible
  • Limit work trips to China and other affected countries


Earlier this week, Sheffield Hallam University updated coronavirus advice for students and staff, which can be viewed here.

Our legal advice is free of charge. Contact us on 0114 225 6666 or enquiries@shulaw.co.uk for more information.

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