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Your rights to get paid in the event of coronavirus affecting you

PUBLISHED: 10:20 27 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:49 27 February 2020

Workers in protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against coronavirus. Picture: AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

Workers in protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against coronavirus. Picture: AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

A Norwich lawyer has warned people planning trips to coronavirus hotspots not to expect to get full pay if they are forced into isolation when they return.

Kristian Jones, who specialises in employment law, said there was no definitive rules because the coronavirus was a unique situation which "bucks all the trends".

He said there was no problem for staff who needed to self-isolate for a fortnight working from home being paid in the usual way. However, if someone was unable to do this because of the nature of their job, the issue was more complicated. Mr Jones said measures would differ from firm to firm and to always seek advice from your HR department.

Mr Jones, who works for Ashburnam solicitors in Colegate, said if an employer had sent an employee to an affected area for work, even without symptoms of coronavirus, they should be treated as sick and the employer's sickness policy would kick in, with the person paid full statutory sick pay with a discretion to top-up left to the employer.

You can get £94.25 per week SSP if you are too ill to work paid by your employer for up to 28 weeks.

Kristian Jones, a lawyer with Ashburnham solicitors. Pic: ArchantKristian Jones, a lawyer with Ashburnham solicitors. Pic: Archant

If someone had contracted coronavirus in the UK, again Mr Jones said they should be on SSP but possibly without a top-up - but again at the employer's discretion.

He said employers could discuss with staff self-isolating whether they wanted to take it as full pay holiday, if there was no option of topping up the SSP. Some employers have it written into staff contracts that they can impose holiday so employees need to check this.

But if an employee has booked a holiday in an affected area - with coronavirus now in Italy and spreading across Europe, Mr Jones felt it unreasonable to expect the employer to pay SSP for a fortnight.

"I would advise you cancel your holiday and take the hit, in my opinion you can't plough on with a holiday and go somewhere you know is affected and come back and hold out your hand to your employer.

"It is of course a downer but it's unreasonable to put yourself in an affected zone."

Mr Jones also advised employers to draw up an agreement that makes it clear that the payment of SSP for self-isolating is a one-off measure to avoid staff trying to use it in the future for an illness not connected with coronavirus.

Here is a Q and A from Nicole Rogers, a solicitor at DAS Law:

If I feel that I should be 'self-isolating', can my employer deduct my pay for the time I am away from work?

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In my opinion, if you are otherwise fit for work but are taking precautionary steps by 'self-isolating', technically you are not entitled to pay. However, it is good practice for employers not to deduct pay in these situations. An employee would usually be 'self-isolating' on the advice of a doctor and it is sensible for an employer to show understanding in order to fulfil health and safety obligations and maintain good staff relations.

In addition, to withhold pay could encourage an employee to return to work prematurely which might potentially risk spreading the virus. Many employers can allow temporary flexible working arrangements where employees can work from home.

What are my rights if I'm quarantined and my boss refuses to pay my salary?

If you have contracted the virus, normal rules around sick pay will apply and you will either receive SSP or contractual sick pay. If your employer has specifically told you not to come into the workplace as you have been in or to an affected area, you would ordinarily receive

your normal pay.

What is unclear is a situation where an employee remains off work as they have been quarantined or recommended to isolate themselves. In those circumstances, it would not strictly be considered as sick as the reason for the absence isn't because the employee is unwell and therefore has no entitlement to sick pay.

There may be a contractual clause relating to such circumstances and how this time off should be paid. In the absence of any contractual clause, the position will be that the leave will be unpaid (or the employee can request to use their annual leave entitlement to cover the absence).

Can I be forced to use my annual leave if I am 'self-isolating'?

You cannot be forced to use annual leave if you are medically unfit for work. However in many other circumstances, your employer can force you to take annual leave if they provide you with adequate notice; twice the amount of the days you are being forced to take. For example, to force you to use five days' holiday, your employer must give you 10 days' notice.

Will I be paid statutory sick pay while I'm away from work?

Only if you are medically unfit for work and meet the eligibility criteria for SSP.

Will my pay be affected if I have to stay at home due to my child's school being closed?

You have the right to reasonable time off to deal with unexpected disruptions relating to the care of your child; this includes incidents relating to your child's school. You must notify your employer as soon as possible and advise, where practicable, how long the disruption is likely to last. This time off is unpaid but you may request to use this time as paid annual leave.

If I am on a 'zero hours' contract will I lose pay for the time I am away from work?

Genuine zero-hour workers have no right to be offered work and no obligation to accept work. Therefore, you will likely have no right to pay. In the event that you have been advised to self-isolate, your employer will be entitled to simply not offer you any work until the isolation period has ended.

This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice. Each individual's case will differ.


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