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Confused about pay when it comes to coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Updated: Feb 16

In view of the outbreak of coronavirus across the world and in the UK, it is important for employers to carefully consider what they can do to protect their business and their employees from the virus epidemic, especially if the threat escalates.

To help you understand the situation as it currently stands and what precautions and implementations you can make now to your business, we have prepared an FAQ page on our rradarstation website offering the latest information and guidance for employers. Our team will be updating these FAQs on a regular basis, here are a few of the FAQs relating to employee pay below.

What do I pay someone who is off sick with coronavirus?

If an employee is off sick with coronavirus, you will need to pay them what they would usually get paid if they were off sick with anything else. This may be Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or company sick pay, if they are entitled to it.There are no waiting days if an employee is being paid SSP in relation to coronavirus.

Do I need to pay someone if they are self-isolating and they have chosen to do this themselves, without being instructed to do so by a medical professional?

This position has developed since the initial outbreak of the virus. The government has now stated that an employee or worker should receive any SSP due to them if they need to self-isolate because they have:

  • coronavirus (usually 14 days of self-isolation)

  • a high temperature or new continuous cough (usually 7 days of self-isolation)

  • been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111

You should nevertheless investigate with the employee to get a better understanding as to why they believe that they should self-isolate without medical advice. Certainly, in order to avoid any possible risk of the virus spreading to other staff in the workplace, you may be happy to accept the employees cautious approach.

Whilst the minimum pay is SSP, there is nothing wrong with an employer paying more than SSP, certainly if it is the case where contractual sick pay applies. Or it may be the case that the employee says, although they need to self-isolate, they feel well enough to do some work from home. If you are satisfied that the employee is well enough to work from home during a period of self -isolation then they should be paid their normal pay rather than SSP, however this position should be kept under constant review, as the employee's health may deteriorate. You also need to ensure that you do not put yourself in a situation where an employee argues that they felt that they had no choice but to work during a period of self-isolation.

This situation will be different though if after further investigation you do not accept the employee’s reason for self- isolating, especially where they confirm that they have no symptoms and have not been in contact with anyone who has tested positive or just returned from an ‘at risk’ country. In such instances, an employee should attend work as normal and if they choose not to do so, this could be deemed as unauthorised absence or a conduct issue depending on the contents of your disciplinary policy.

Do I need to pay someone if they are being asked to isolate themselves by a medical professional?

As stated above, this situation has developed and the government is now stating that an employee or worker should receive any SSP due to them if they need to self-isolate because they have:

  • coronavirus (usually 14 days of self-isolation)

  • a high temperature or new continuous cough (usually 7 days of self-isolation)

  • been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111

Also as at today's date (13th March 2020) new regulations have now come in to force amending who is to be covered when it comes to 'persons deemed 'incapable for work' for the purposes of sick pay entitlement.

Under the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020, for the purposes of sick pay entitlement, someone who is isolating themselves from other people in order to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease will also be deemed to be 'incapable of work'  and therefore entitled to SSP or Contractual sick pay depending on the policy used by employers.

They key thing is to ensure that there is open and constant communication with your employees and workers around self-isolation so that you can have a clear understanding of their health status and condition. The normal rules on 7 day self certification still apply and any thing beyond this point should be evidenced where possible by a fit note. Please bear in mind though that there may be a delay around receiving this where the employee has been told to self-isolate and can only contact their GP or NHS 111 by telephone or online.

Although an employee may have been advised to self-isolate by a medical professional, they may argue that they are well enough to work from home. If you are satisfied that they are well enough to work from home and they do so, they should be paid their normal pay. Please note though that this situation should be closely monitored, especially where the employee's health deteriorates.

Do I need to pay someone if they are in quarantine because they are sick with the virus?

Yes – but only their sick pay entitlement which will either be SSP or any contractual sick pay outlined in their contract.

Do the waiting days for SSP in cases of coronavirus apply?

No. It was announced on the 4th March 2020 that SSP will apply from day one of sickness for cases involving coronavirus. Therefore, the usual three SSP waiting days will not apply.

What do I pay someone if I send them home because I feel it is too risky for them to be in work, for example, because they are a returning traveller from a high risk area?

In these circumstances, you would need to pay the employee full pay as this would be deemed a medical suspension. If the employee becomes sick with the virus, their sickness entitlement would then apply whether this is SSP or contractual sick pay. So the employee would move from full pay to SSP or contractual sick pay. In relation to absences associated with the coronavirus the 3 day waiting period for SSP has be waived.

What if I need to cut my employees' hours down quickly, to take into account loss of business because of the virus?

You could take advantage of any lay-off or short-time working clauses in your contracts. However, if this is not possible, please get in touch.



To read the full FAQs or if, after reading this article, you have concerns over whether your business is fully prepared for the coronavirus or any other health issue, why not log in to the online web portal or talk to our rradarstation advisors? rradarstation is accessed by thousands of companies through their business insurance products. Policyholders can access rradar’s legal advisory team over the phone or by email and web gateway that provides over 2,000 articles, step-by-step guidance sheets, forms, sample letters and templates to download relating to running your business/organisation. If you have an account you can login here.

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