The Government’s announcement that statutory sick pay will be payable from day one for those affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) is a welcome step as part of its strategy to contain the virus and protect employees.
It is clearly aimed at encouraging those in the at risk categories to stay away from the workplace by ensuring that they are being paid from the moment they are advised to self-isolate. As the risks aren’t limited to employees, the government should also extend the right to sick pay from day one to those who are self-employed and to low paid workers.
Employers who provide contractual sick pay should follow the government’s lead and pay those who self-isolate their contractual sick pay for the period they have received medical advice or guidance to self-isolate. This should be seen as part of the employer’s duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of their workforce by encouraging those at risk not to attend the workplace.
The situation is clearly a developing one as the Government announced last week that all those travelling back from anywhere in Italy, not just Northern Italy, should also now self-isolate for 14 days.
What measures should employers be carrying out?
Employers have a duty to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to prevent the risks of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the workplace.
Employers should be informing and consulting union health and safety reps, not only about the preventative steps they are taking now, but also about how they will keep them under review.
Government officials estimate that up to a fifth of the workforce may be off sick during the peak of the epidemic. As coronavirus (COVID-19) begins to hit the economy, employers should collectively consult with the recognised unions as to what measures can be put in place to enable those who are unaffected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) to continue to work.