Rights for members with absence relating to Coronavirus / Covid-19

Employers have a duty of care towards their employees which includes not exposing them to unnecessary risk. In this case, that may include not putting them in a position in which they could become infected by the virus without taking all reasonable precautions.

Suspending employees who may have been exposed

If a member of staff tests positive, they will be notified by text, email or phone and asked to log on to the NHS Test and Trace website which will allow the NHS to contact people who may be at risk of infection.

The person who has tested positive MUST self-isolate for 7 days.

Where the employer has concerns about an employee (particularly if it is known or suspected that the employee has had contact with someone known to have the virus) then the best advice might be to play it safe and require them to work from home, or if that is not possible, suspend them, briefly on precautionary grounds.

Where the employer chooses to suspend returning employees as a precaution, this should be on full pay unless the contract gives them a right to suspend without pay for this reason (which is unlikely).

Members working in maintained schools, free schools and academies:

Teachers (from the ‘Burgundy Book’)

10.1 When the approved medical practitioner attests that there is evidence to show a reasonable probability that an absence was due to an infectious or contagious illness contracted directly in the course of the teacher’s employment full pay shall be allowed for such period of absence as may be authorised by the approved medical practitioner as being due to the illness, and such absence shall not be reckoned against the teacher’s entitlement to sick leave under paragraph 2 above, though such absences are reckonable for entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay.

10.3 A teacher residing in a house in which some other person is suffering from an infectious disease shall at once notify the employer and the teacher shall, if required, take such precautions as may be prescribed, provided that if in the opinion of the approved medical practitioner it is considered inadvisable, notwithstanding such precautions, for such teacher to attend duty, full pay shall be allowed during any enforced absence from duty, such pay being sick pay for the purpose of paragraphs 3 to 7.5 above. This provision will also apply where, in the opinion of an approved medical practitioner, it is inadvisable for a teacher to attend duty for precautionary reasons due to infectious disease in the workplace. The period of the absence under this paragraph shall not be reckoned against the. teacher’s entitlement to sick leave under paragraph 2 above, though such absences are reckonable for entitlements to Statutory Sick Pay.
 

Support Staff (from the ‘Green Book’)
10.9 An employee who is prevented from attending work because of contact with infectious disease shall be entitled to receive normal pay. The period of absence on this account shall not be reckoned against the employee’s entitlements under this scheme.

Members working in other employment – including nurseries, pre-schools, privately funded schools and alternative settings:

Self-Isolate

The government has said that if you are asked to self-isolate, without symptoms, by the NHS Track and Trace team, you are, as a minimum, eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) at £95.85 per week.  In a televised interview on Thursday 28 May, the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said  "If you are instructed by the NHS, for public health reasons, to stay at home then that is the equivalent in employment law to being ill and it is very important that employers are flexible about this."

ACAS suggests that it is best practice to treat this period as sick leave and follow usual sick pay policy, or offer the employee the option of taking paid annual leave because this helps reduce the risk that the employee feels compelled to attend work and by doing so, put other employees at risk of catching the virus. 

Employees who refuse to come into work due to concerns

If an employee is worried about catching the virus and so refuses to attend work, ACAS suggests listening to the employee’s concerns and offering reassurance.  An employer's response to this will depend on the actual risk of catching the virus, will be different for every employer and will depend on specific circumstances including whether anyone in the workforce has already been diagnosed or there is another real risk of exposure.  

Options may include, allowing employees to work from home, considering periods of paid annual leave or unpaid leave, or furloughing the affected staff where this is feasible.  Responses should be reasonable to the specific situation.

Closure of business

Some employers may decide to put in place a plan to cover a situation where their business temporarily closes down due to exposure/potential exposure to the virus.  Employees who are ready and willing to work but are not provided with work (as would be the case with a temporary closure) may be eligible to be furloughed under the government job-retention scheme.  In some cases, this may not be possible and this may result in you being placed on lay off.  

Lay off must be with full pay unless there is a provision within the contract for lay off without pay (subject to the payment of statutory guarantee pay for employees with a least one month’s service at the time of lay off).  If there is no contractual provision, employers can attempt to agree with employees a period of unpaid lay off. 

Click here for more advice on the Coronavirus / Covid-19

Comments

My immune system is compromised as I do not have spleen. I am working 2 mornings a week with few others. I am not unwell but worried as am in a vulnerable category. There is no one else who does my role and i cant work from home. Please advise if I should go in or can I refuse.

Those in a vulnerable category should not be in work.

From our FAQs:

A: If you have an underlying health condition and fall into the vulnerable category – you should be self-isolating.  This means you should:

  • Avoid contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19). These symptoms include high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.
  • Avoid non-essential use of public transport when possible.
  • Work from home, where possible. Your employer should support you to do this. Please refer to employer guidance for more information.
  • Avoid large and small gatherings in public spaces, noting that pubs, restaurants, leisure centres and similar venues are currently shut as infections spread easily in closed spaces where people gather together.
  • Avoid gatherings with friends and family. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.
  • Use telephone or online services to contact your GP or other essential services.

Everyone should be trying to follow these measures as much as is practicable.

If there is meaningful work that you can do during this time, then explain to your Headteacher that this is what you will be doing.  In addition, your employer can direct you to undertake other tasks remotely.  You should do any tasks you are capable of and expect to be paid your normal rate. 

If you cannot come into work and cannot work from home, then your employer should consider medically suspending you - ensuring that any change is put in writing.

I have asthma and have been self isolating for nearly 2 weeks my school have said I am only covered for two weeks. It would be very difficult to follow social distancing within the school. I know people who have asthma being put on the rota to go in I am hoping I can work from home but not 100% sure this will happen. Would welcome advice

If you are a Voice member, there is more information on our FAQs page: https://www.voicetheunion.org.uk/help-and-advice/coronavirus-covid-19/co... and also (for all): https://www.asthma.org.uk/advice/triggers/coronavirus-covid-19

For specific advice, you should call or email Voice HQ https://www.voicetheunion.org.uk/contact-us

I manage an open all year day nursery and have a staff member who is planning to travel out of the UK for her two week summer holiday (annual leave booked pre COVID-19). I think the government current status dictates that she should self isolate for 14 days on her return to the UK. This will in effect mean she will be off work for 4 weeks. What are the options in terms of managing this prolonged absence, as it will obviously impact on our service? I completely understand she is entitled to do what she wants on her annual leave, but seeing as she is 'putting herself' in this situation, can I require her to take the isolation period as unpaid leave? (She has some leave remaining but not 14 days worth). I would welcome your thoughts? Thank you

Thank you for your comment, which I will share with colleagues for information. If you are a Voice member, please contact us and ask for the duty officer so they can advise: https://www.voicetheunion.org.uk/contact-us

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