Coronavirus: what are my rights as an employee?
Coronavirus is affecting workplaces across the UK. You may need to take time off due to sickness or to self-isolate. It’s possible that your employer may ask you to work from home or even close your workplace completely.
Changes at work can be unsettling, especially if you’re not sure what you’re entitled to. We’ve put together this information to help you understand your rights as an employee and what any changes could mean for your income.
The situation is changing quickly, so this information is based on what we know on 18 March. It’s also important to say that this information is intended as a general guide. Your circumstances may be different and we would always advise you to seek formal legal advice if you are concerned.
Will I get paid if I am ill with coronavirus or self-isolating?
If you are off sick with coronavirus or need to self-isolate in line with government guidance, you may be entitled to pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
· You are entitled to SSP if you meet the eligibility conditions.
· If you are an agency worker, you are also entitled to SSP if you meet the conditions.
· SSP is currently £94.25 per week and can be paid for up to 28 weeks.
· Normally, SSP is paid from the fourth day of absence, but the government has said that it will now be paid from day one.
Your employer may also offer additional sick pay. You can find out by checking your employment contract, employee handbook, company policies or asking your HR department. Some employers are still offering sick pay if you are well but need to self-isolate and are unable to work from home. Remember to follow your workplace’s policy on notifying your employer that you are sick or self-isolating.
Will I need a doctor’s note to prove I am self-isolating?
Normally, you need to provide evidence, such as a doctor’s fit note, if you are ill for more than seven days in a row and have taken sick leave. The Government has said that it will introduce a temporary system so that individuals who are self-isolating can obtain a notification from NHS 111 online which you can use as evidence, should you require it.
What are my rights if my place of work closes?
This will depend why your workplace is closing, how long it is likely to be closed for and whether you can work from home. However, as a general rule:
1. If you can work from home
If your workplace is closed and you are able to work from home, it is likely to be reasonable for your employer to ask you to do so. Where this is agreed, you should get your usual pay. Your company may have homeworking policies which you will need to follow.
2. If you can’t work from home
If you can’t work because your workplace is shut (not because you are ill or self-isolating) and it is not reasonably possible for you to work from home, you should normally still be entitled to full pay. This is because you are willing and able to work and it is your employer’s decision to close your workplace. This may not be the case if there is no contractual requirement to offer you work, for example, if you are a casual worker.
If my workplace closes, can they ask me to take paid or unpaid leave or make me redundant?
If employers need to close down a workplace for a longer period of time, they might need to take measures to reduce payroll costs. Your employer could be entitled to lay off staff temporarily or put them on a short-term contract. You could be given notice that requires you to take holidays during the shutdown, or your employer may seek volunteers to take unpaid leave.
If there is likely to be a long-term impact on business and a reduced need for staff when the workplace reopens, employers may begin consulting on making redundancies. However, your employer might try to come to an agreement with employees and their representatives on alternatives to redundancy, such as reducing working hours or pay/benefits.
Where can I get more information?
ACAS offer free impartial advice to employers and employees. They are currently updating their coronavirus guidance daily.