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:
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.