Coronavirus and your rights to pay whilst absent from work


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Coronavirus- What are your rights to pay during absence from work?

You might be absent from work for a number of different reasons, including a forced quarantine after a holiday abroad. Your rights to pay during absence from work will depend on your circumstances and the reason you are absent. This page sets out your pay entitlement in the most common situations.

What if I need to self-isolate for 14 days after you return from abroad as required by the government?

If you are able to work from home then you would be entitled to your usual pay.

If you are unwell then you would be entitled to statutory sick pay, and any enhanced contractual sick pay in accordance with your employer’s policy.

If you cannot work from home and you are not sick, then you would not be entitled to any pay unless your contract or your employer’s policy provides otherwise (or your employer decides to be generous). You might want to discuss with your employer whether it is possible to take extra holiday so at least you can still be paid while you self-isolate.

However, if you were away on work-related travel, then it is reasonable to expect to be paid while you self-isolate on your return. Your employer should also ensure that you are treated consistently with your colleagues.

What if I am trapped abroad?

If you are unwell, then you are entitled to your usual sick pay including SSP and any contractual sick pay.

If you can work remotely from abroad then you would be entitled to your usual pay.

If you cannot work remotely and you are not unwell, then you would not be entitled to any pay unless your contract or your employer’s policy provides otherwise. Your employer might also discuss with you whether it is possible to take extra holiday so that you can still be paid while you self-isolate.

However, if you were trapped abroad on a work trip then it is reasonable to expect to be paid while you self-isolate on your return. Your employer should also ensure that you are treated the same as colleagues in the same situation.

What if I have an illness with suspected or diagnosed COVID-19?

You would receive your usual sick pay entitlements. This would include Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’), and any contractual sick pay that your employer offers. SSP is payable from the first day of absence for sickness which is related to coronavirus.

Government advice is that if you have symptoms you should self-isolate for 7 days, so your employer should expect you to be off for at least that long. You may not have to provide evidence of your symptoms in the same way that you usually would, although this is ultimately up to your employer.

What if the government has ordered my employer to close the workplace temporarily?

If you can work from home then you would be entitled to your usual pay. If you cannot work from home, then you are still entitled to full pay unless your contract of employment expressly states that your employer can lay you off temporarily (either on reduced or no pay), or you agree to temporary unpaid leave – this is rare.

If your employer decides to place you on furlough under the coronavirus job retention scheme, then you would be entitled to 80% salary up to £2,500 per month.

What if my employer has decided to temporarily close my workplace although not ordered to do so?

You are entitled to your usual pay unless you have agreed to be placed on furlough or your employment contract states that your employer can temporarily lay you off with reduced or no pay.

What if my employer has requested that I reduce my working hours and I have agreed?

You are entitled to your usual pay, or whatever proportion of your usual pay you have agreed with your employer for working reduced hours.

What happens if my employer tries to force a pay cut because I am not work?

What if I am self-isolating/quarantining on medical or government advice (because I have symptoms or I have come into contact with someone who has symptoms).

If you can work remotely, then you are entitled to your usual pay. If you cannot work from home but you are self-isolating because you or someone in your household has symptoms (7 and 14 days respectively), then you are entitled to SSP until the end of the appropriate period of self-isolation or until you test negative for COVID-19, whichever comes first.

You are also entitled to SSP if you are self-isolating for 14 days because you have been contacted by NHS test and trace.

If you are unable to work from home but you are following medical advice to ‘shield’ because you are extremely vulnerable, then you are entitled to SSP for the whole period that you are shielding.

If one of the above does not apply, then you would not be entitled to SSP if you are fit to work. However, you should check your employment contract to see if there are any provisions covering this situation. Your employer may, but does not have to, pay full pay even if you are not entitled to it, in order to ensure that you do not feel that you have to come into work (and put others at risk in doing so). Your employer should also treat employees equally, so if someone else is receiving full pay during a 14-day period of self-isolation, you should also be entitled to this.

What happens if I am having issues with childcare?

You are entitled to a reasonable amount of unpaid time off work to arrange care for a child who is unwell, or if there are unexpected problems with care arrangements. For example, this would cover if your child has the virus (and grandparents who are vulnerable would usually care for them), or if the child’s school is unexpectedly closed. There is no limit to the amount of time you can take off- it is whatever is ‘reasonable’ to enable you to make alternative arrangements if possible. However, emergency dependent leave is unpaid unless your contract provides otherwise.

What happens if I do not want to come into work because I am concerned about the risk of infection?

If you can work from home and your employer agrees then you are entitled to your usual pay.

If your employer requires that you come to work and you refuse to do so, then you would not usually be entitled to any pay. However, you are entitled not to be ‘subjected to detriment’ if you reasonably believe that attending your workplace would put you in ‘serious and imminent danger’. For example, if your employer is refusing to put in place any safety measures, or if there is a confirmed coronavirus case and you are still being asked to come into work. In these circumstances you might expect to be paid.

If you have or have developed serious anxiety which means you are not well enough to come into work then you would be entitled to SSP and any contractual sick pay.

You are a vulnerable or ‘high risk’ person and you do not want to come into work because you are concerned about the risk of infection
You are considered ‘vulnerable’ if you have a relevant health condition, weak immune system, or if you are over 70 or pregnant. If you can work from home and your employer agrees to this then you are entitled to your usual pay.

If you cannot work from home but you are ‘shielding’ on medical advice because you are ‘extremely vulnerable’, then you are entitled to SSP until the end of the shielding period.

If you cannot work from home and you are not shielding, then you would not be entitled to SSP.

Your employer should discuss your options with you, including safety measures being put in place for you to attend work, whether you can take holiday, unpaid leave or whether you can be furloughed.

PRACTICAL STEPS 

In all cases, and in the present climate, a sensible dialogue should be entered into with your employer. Hopefully, their approach will be sympathetic. If you cannot resolve the matter informally, you can always lodge a formal grievance with your employer. Usually your line manger or HR would call a meeting to discuss your grievance, however in the present climate this is more likely to be dealt with in writing or in real-time online by video conferencing. You can otherwise seek external help and support.

 

We are a leading firm of employment law solicitors, acting for employees and senior executives in the City and throughout the UK. For more information on the coronavirus and your rights and a free consultation, please get in contact on 020 7100 5256 and ask to speak to Philip Landau or any member of the employment team, or email us.

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