Coronavirus - will employees be paid if they can't go to work?

With concern amongst UK employees that they may not be paid if they contract the Coronavirus or are asked to self-isolate by a doctor, what is the truth?

coronavirus do employees get paid if not at work
There is a growing concern amongst employees in the UK that they may not be paid if they contract the Coronavirus or are asked to self-isolate by a doctor, despite assurances from the Health Secretary and several organisations that they should be treated as sick and paid appropriately.

Employees should check their own pay terms

Experts fear that many people, unsure of their position or worried that they will not be paid, will continue to work, thus infecting more people.In light of these concerns, Julian Cox, Head of Employment Law at City of London law firm, iLaw, has said that failure to communicate arrangements for sick pay or provide sick pay could lead to employers being in breach of their Health and Safety obligations.“Those working on zero-hours contracts or who are paid hourly are obviously concerned that they may not receive sick pay and some may even come to work while infected causing the infection to spread further,” says Julian.

Employers may adapt policies to overcome the risks of spreading Coronavirus

“Businesses need to be clear with staff what their policies are and even consider adapting their policies to take into consideration the risks associated with Coronavirus.“The Health and Safety Act is very clear in spelling out employers’ obligations, not only to their staff but also those who interact with their business or organisation.”

Protecting the employee

Pay policies that inadvertently force staff to work when ill could lead to a breach of employer’s Health and Safety obligations, warns iLaw.The Act says that it is an employer's duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Employers must do “whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this”.“This legislation clearly states that employers should make sure that workers and others are protected from anything that may cause harm, in this case the Covid-19 virus. This includes ‘effectively controlling any risks to injury or health that could arise in the workplace’," continues Julian.

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Guidance from the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, ACAS and others to employers that those that have been asked to self-isolate are entitled to sick pay, even in the case of self isolation, was useful, according to Julian, but doesn't fundamentally change the law as it stands.

When are employers not obliged to pay staff?

“Unless you are sick, employers are under no legal obligation to pay you. Many employers are likely to offer the ability to work from home, but in certain industries and roles that is simply not possible," continues Julian.“Many people are not entitled to sick leave, including people who are self-employed, members of the armed forces, those who have received Employment and Support Allowance in the past three months, or those who have already received SSP for 28 weeks.”Julian says that those on zero-hour contracts are entitled to SSP, as long as they've worked for the company previously, been ill for at least four days in a row, including their days off and earned an average of at least £118 a week before tax over the past eight weeks.

Employers should ensure clarity to avoid spread of infection

“Unfortunately, many employers are yet to clarify with their employees their policies in relation to self-isolation and so there are growing fears that up to a fifth of the UK’s workforce may become infected, with a significant number of people contracting the virus due to workers who remain at their post when they should be self-isolating or seeking treatment,” concludes Julian. Julian recommends that employers seek expert advice to review their policies and communicate with staff properly about sick pay arrangements.
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