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UK News Do you still get paid if you self-isolate because of COVID-19?

12:15  27 february  2020
12:15  27 february  2020 Source:   news.sky.com

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So if you need to self - isolate , will you still get paid ? Most recently in the UK, 300 workers were sent home from the US oil company Chevron’s London offices amid concerns over a staff member suffering flu-like symptoms who had recently returned from one of the Covid - 19 hotspots.

a group of people sitting at a dock: A couple wear face masks as they walk along the Thames embankment in central London on January 28, 2020. - Around 1,500 people who came to Britain from the Chinese epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic in the past two weeks must put themselves in iso © Imagebridge A couple wear face masks as they walk along the Thames embankment in central London on January 28, 2020. - Around 1,500 people who came to Britain from the Chinese epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic in the past two weeks must put themselves in iso

The British government is advising thousands of people to self-isolate to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but what are your rights when it comes to work?

Employment lawyer Rubel Bashir, from Slater and Gordon, says both employers and employees in the UK have a duty of care and "discretion is needed" with such an unusual situation as a coronavirus outbreak.

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What should employers do to protect staff?

Employers have an obligation under British law to take reasonable steps to protect staff health and safety.

Mr Bashir said: "These include educating staff, sending emails on cleanliness, providing hand sanitisers, cleaning communal areas. Employers are required to take those steps."

Should staff travel be restricted?

Employers should restrict staff travel to places where there has been a COVID-19 outbreak as part of their duty of care.

"If an outbreak happens while they are there, an employer has an obligation to ensure their safety and that of other staff," Mr Bashir said.

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Can employers stop staff going on holiday to high-risk regions?

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Self -isolation means remaining indoors in one place to avoid contact with other people, and potentially spreading the Covid - 19 virus. People should not go to work, school or public areas, avoid using public transport and ask friends, relatives or delivery services to get things like shopping or medications.

Getting money back for a cancellation will depend on whether you bought travel insurance in advance, and what your policy says. Someone must be named on the insurance policy in order to benefit from it. The ABI stresses that you should read a policy in full before making a purchase.

Mr Bashir said: "There'd be risks on employers to have such a blanket policy as while it may not affect most of us, people may want to visit relatives.

"That could be discriminatory if they are banned by their company.

Airports around the world have introduced screening © Reuters Airports around the world have introduced screening

"An employer should direct them to government advice. An employee should realise that if they did travel there then that's causing more problems for themselves if they have to self-isolate or risk contracting COVID-19."

What if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 then comes into work?

Mr Bashir said: "If someone knows they have coronavirus, there's possibly a case to be made that the infected person has breached a duty of care.

"In theory that could happen but if they're high-risk then they would have a duty not to work.

"Anything before that, it would be very harsh or unreasonable to not be allowed to work at all."

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The government does not recommend closing down the workplace and Public Health England (PHE) will contact the management team to discuss the case and contact anybody who has been close to the infected person.

Staff who have had close contact with that person will be asked by PHE to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the infected person.

What do you do if someone suspected to have COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace?

If there is a suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace, the government says no restrictions or special control measures are required while waiting for laboratory tests.

T

here is no need to close the workplace down or send other staff home at that point as most possible cases turn out to be negative.

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Employees who have not had close contact with the person do not need to take any precautions and can continue to go to work.

Do I need to prove I've been in self-isolation for 14 days?

British law states that medical evidence is not required for the first seven days of sickness.

After that, the employer determines what evidence they require, if any. This does not have to be a note from your GP and employers are "strongly" suggested to use discretion, according to the government.

Mr Bashir said employers have a responsibility to take "reasonable care" to look after their employees - which could mean allowing them to not come into work or work from home.

Will I get paid if I'm in self-isolation?

Mr Bashir said: "After seven days you would normally need a medical note, fitness for work note.

"In terms of payment, it would depend on the contractual right of the employee, what the sick pay policy is.

"It may be statutory sick pay, which is £94.25 a week for up to 28 weeks.

a group of people standing in front of a building: Volunteers in protective suits are disinfected in Wuhan © Reuters Volunteers in protective suits are disinfected in Wuhan "Ultimately, it's up to the employer's discretion as they do not have a legal obligation to pay staff on sick leave the full amount."

Health secretary Matt Hancock said guidance has been sent to UK employers and said self-isolation should be considered "sickness for employment purposes".

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Conciliation service Acas recommends if somebody is told not to come into work because they have COVID-19 they should get their usual pay.

What if an employee decides to come into work even though they have just been in a high-risk area such as China or northern Italy?

Mr Bashir said: "There's an obligation on the employee to take a reasonable care for their own safety and others they work with.

"If you know you have an illness then the employee may be in breach of their contract.

"However, if the employee is coming into work and the employer is refusing to allow them then the employer has to pay them."

What if an employee decides to self-isolate but they have not been near someone with COVID-19 or a high-risk region?

"If it's one or two people in a workforce an employer might be willing to make an exception," Mr Bashir said.

"If they suspect they're trying to get off work then it's up to the employer to decide.

Military staff in China are swabbed for COVID-19 © Imagebridge Military staff in China are swabbed for COVID-19 "It depends on how genuine the risk is. If it's not then an employee could face disciplinary action.

"An employee isn't entitled to not attend work for no reason. They need to have a sensible discussion with their employer."

Does an employer have an obligation to stop racism against staff?

There have been several reports of people of a southeast Asian appearance experiencing racism because COVID-19 originated in China.

But do employers need to protect against that in the workplace?

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"Yes," Mr Bashir said. "That could amount to discrimination or harassment.

"The employer would be liable for the actions of employees so need to take steps to stop a hostile or degrading environment."

What protections does the gig economy have?

People who do not have the cover of an employer, such as food delivery drivers, couriers and Uber drivers, have little protection.

Mr Bashir said: "There's not much they can do apart from follow government advice.

"If they caught COVID-19 you can't say that's their fault or the company they work for.

"There would be an obligation for big companies like Uber to educate and take the appropriate steps to protect their drivers."

What about businesses such as nurseries and food?

"All employers and employees have a general obligation to take reasonable care, that differs from industry to industry," Mr Bashir said.

"Working in food, an employer would have a larger obligation anyway because just having a cold is high risk at any time.

"With nurseries, they have policies such as children not being allowed to come in if they have certain illnesses.

"Different industries will have policies in place already but they need to look at those policies with regards to the coronavirus."

Do employees have to wear face masks?

The government says people in the workplace "are not recommended" to wear face masks to protect against COVID-19.

Those with symptoms - a fever and a cough - are recommended to wear them to reduce the risk of infecting others.

Dr Adam Kucharski, infectious disease epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said face masks can make people touch their faces more.

For those who are ill, he said self-isolating is better than wearing a face mask.

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