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Coronavirus and employment rights

News of holiday makers struck down with coronavirus or being quarantined in their Tenerife hotel or on their cruise ship has left many wondering how those situations affect their employment.

Public Health England advise that if you are undergoing tests for COVID 19 (coronavirus), or have become unwell since returning from an affected area, that you self-isolate and in the case of the latter, seek medical guidance as soon as possible.

Being in self-isolation means that you should not go to work, school, or to any public area, and you should not use public transport or taxis until you have been told it is safe for you to do so.

So where do you stand with your employer?
If you are off work because you have been diagnosed with COVID 19, you are entitled to your usual sick pay, as with any other illness, under the terms of your employment contract.

However, it becomes a grey area if you are quarantined or go in to self-isolation but have not been diagnosed with the virus.

Because you are not actually sick there is no legal obligation for your employer to pay you sick pay.
In cases where your employer has told you not to come in to work, then you are entitled to your usual sick pay.

If you have been advised by medical staff to self-isolate or you are quarantined in an affected area and not allowed to travel back home, it is good practice for your employer to treat it as sick leave or agree that you can take it as additional annual leave.

Employment law specialist, Sarah Naylor, comments: “Although there is no legal right to sick pay in these circumstances, it would certainly be good practice. Otherwise employers run the risk of their staff coming into work and potentially spreading the virus to the rest of the workforce.

There is also risk of an argument, although a weak one, that by choosing not to pay someone who has self-isolated, you have breached the implied term of trust and confidence and hence constructively dismissed them.

My view is that an employer should pay someone if they are off due to a requirement to self-isolate.”

If you would like advice on any aspect of employment law, contact us on 01302 320621 or email