As the number of people infected with Covid-19 continues to rise rapidly, the UK government has started to take precautionary measures to handle a possible pandemic. There are also ongoing discussions on how Covid-19 will affect businesses and their workforce.
As Covid-19 continues to spread, many companies have already taken extensive measures to protect employee health and safety, such as restricting travels abroad for business or meetings and encouraging working from home. The long-term economic consequences Covid-19 will have are difficult to predict.
Multiple questions are being asked:
1. What are the employer’s obligations and the employee’s rights due to the risk of the virus?
2. Can the employer deny employee access to the business premises?
3. Does an employee need to answer the employer’s questions on whether the employee has recently spent time in high-risk or restricted areas?
4. What are the consequences if authorities quarantine certain employees?
5. Can employees stay at home without the consent of the employer if they are not ill and do not have symptoms? And more.
In principle, the current legislation governing the labor law continues to be in force and the usual obligations and rights remain the same. The employer is responsible for ensuring a healthy working environment. If access to the business premises is denied, the employer must continue to remunerate the employee. Should an employee be infected with Covid-19 and not be able to work due to sickness, the employer shall provide sick pay in accordance with the applicable sick leave legislation as well as any emergency legislation to deal with coronavirus.
As part of the contingency plan, the Prime Minister announced on Wednesday that statutory sick pay will be made available from day one when self-isolating, instead of day four as per current legislation. The measure is only temporary and will lapse when it is no longer required.
Employee claims of remuneration only exist for the time in which the employee performs work for the employer. Where feasible, an employer may choose to let employees work from home to resolve this matter.
The potential closure of schools and universities
Following Italy’s announcement that it will close all schools and universities for a week and a half in an attempt to slow down the coronavirus spread, the schools in the UK are preparing for a similar scenario. As part of the government’s “Coronavirus action plan”, schools may be forced to close if the outbreak worsens. This could potentially affect those workers who have no option but to stay at home with their children after their school has closed.
For now, however, the schools are preparing online learning resources, getting work ready for pupils to take home and canceling events as they brace for potential closures due to coronavirus. Public Health England’s advice is for them to stay open unless there is a positive case.
Are you prepared?
In many respects, dealing with the Covid-19 cannot be distinguished from dealing with other disease waves such as the annual wave of influenza. However, given the expected scale and potential economic consequences, more far-reaching measures may be necessary. In this respect, precautions should be taken to ensure that both your staff and your company can meet the challenges of Covid-19.
All our articles are intended for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information provided.