Sick pay has become an issue of much confusion and frustration during the pandemic.
Self-isolation rules for contacts of COVID-19-infected individuals means employees are worrying about missing out on pay, and employers are potentially low on numbers of staff not able to work from home.
The government has however, made moves to address these issues.
Here are some of the top concerns my clients currently have:
If an employee is affected in the UK, do I need to provide them sick pay?
Yes. The government has stated that all those who contract the virus are to be provided with Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one of their illness, not day four.
Anybody self-isolating as a result of having a fever and/or a cough should also be provided SSP.
Will I be able to claim back through payroll if I have to pay SSP as a result of the coronavirus?
If your company has less than 250 staff, the government has announced that it will cover the payment of SSP for a minimum of two weeks per employee.
What pay would an employee be entitled to if they were quarantined under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020?
If an employee was legally obligated to stay away from the workplace, and is unable to work from their quarantined location (such as being told not to or being too ill), they should receive SSP.
Can employees take annual leave during a period of sickness absence as a result of the coronavirus?
Employees in this situation would be able to convert their sickness absence to annual leave, however this must be their choice; you cannot enforce such an option.
If I send an employee home who is not showing symptoms, will I need to pay them?
If you send someone home despite them not showing symptoms, you are technically acting against government advice and should continue to pay them full pay.
However, erring on the side of caution is worth considering.
What should I do if an employee is diagnosed and has been in work?
This will not necessarily result in a business closure, but you should contact your local Public Health England protection team. They will then carry out a risk assessment, discuss with you the individuals who may have been exposed and offer further advice on the steps you should take. This will include advising on any necessary cleaning.
Statutory Sick Pay will cover anyone who has to be off work as sick with Covid.
Can I make changes to contractual sick pay as a result of the coronavirus SSP rules?
Taking such an action will be a variation of contract. To do this, you will first need to seek the consent of your workforce. Although they may be hesitant at agreeing to this change, they may decide differently if such action is crucial to the survival of the business and maintaining their employment.
If staff will not agree, you may then consider dismissing and re-engaging them on the new contracts, although bear in mind that this could result in an unfair dismissal claim – and could also be very damaging for morale, productivity and loyalty.
You could also seek to unilaterally impose the change, although you should be mindful for the potential of claims for unlawful deductions from wages or constructive dismissal.
It’s understandable to feel confused and have lots of questions about issues such as SSP during the pandemic. But you need not tackle them alone. If you would like friendly, professional advice, please do not hesitate to contact me on:
email@example.com or 07855 374 511