Coronavirus – Employment Rights and Employer Responsibilities
The world media has been completely focused on the spread of the coronavirus across the globe. As cases continue to rise across continents, many are understandably worried about the impact the virus could have on our health, communities, economy and general day-to-day lives. At consumeradvice.scot, we have received a large volume of enquiries relating to the outbreak of the virus, with the majority related to employment rights. This week, we’re looking at the responsibility of employers and the rights which consumers have in their place of work.
Employers have a duty of care to their employees. There is a responsibility placed upon employers to ensure that staff health and safety is always protected - not only during times of viral outbreaks like this one.
Many Scottish employees will have already noticed company-wide emails and signs placed in communal areas and workstations which reiterate the importance of proper handwashing and sanitising procedures. These often updates should also highlight common symptoms of the virus to help identify instances of infection as early as possible.
Any members of staff who test positive for the virus will have the same rights as they would have when sick for any other reason. The standard workplace sick leave / pay entitlement will apply. Employees who work for companies who offer contractual sick pay should receive this if their employer is adhering to good practice.
In instances where an employee is visiting an affected area, remains quarantined or is advised to self-isolate, there is no automatic right for them to receive their full, normal pay. Employers are encouraged to follow their usual sick leave policy.
For those who have been diagnosed as having contracted the virus, the medical recommendation is to self-isolate for a period of 14 days to contain the spread. Where an employee has been asked to self-isolate by a medical professional, employers are asked to be mindful and to offer a degree of flexibility when requesting evidence from the employee as self isolation may make this paperwork harder to obtain.
In order to contain the spread of the virus, employers are being encouraged to consider letting employees work from home (where possible). However, employees who do not have the virus, yet choose to self-isolate, will not be automatically entitled to full pay without the approval of their employer.
Employers are also encouraged to avoid arranging business travel to areas which have experienced an outbreak of the virus.
When an Employer Closes a Workplace
If an employer closes a workplace, and the employee is not sick and is able to work, they should receive their normal pay. This also applies if the employer asks the employee to stay at home as a precautionary measure after returning from an affected area.
The key things to remember are:
- Don’t panic
- Remain up to date with the news (remember that sensationalist reporting exists!)
- Only follow factual information
- Ensure your employment rights are protected
- Follow relevant Health & Safety guidelines – if you believe you’ve caught the virus, self-isolate to help contain the spread
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