Acas publishes advice on handling coronavirus at work

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Date: 25 February 2020

Coronavirus medical testing

The employment organisation Acas has issued new guidance for employers and employees that have been affected by the coronavirus.

The advice from Acas includes tips on how to handle sick pay, staff in quarantine and staff who do not want to come into work due to fears about catching the coronavirus. The advice also gives tips for employers if the virus spreads widely in the UK or if a business needs to shut temporarily.

Susan Clews, Acas chief executive, said: "The increase in coronavirus cases is headline news around the world and there are genuine concerns around how to deal with its impact on UK workplaces. Employers and workers have started to get in touch with us to ask what their rights are at work when dealing with potential coronavirus cases.

Acas says that normal sick pay policies should apply if someone has coronavirus. But if someone is not sick and their employer tells them not to come into work then they should get their usual pay.

However, there's no legal obligation for an employer to pay someone who is not sick but cannot work if they have been to self-isolate or go into quarantine.

Acas has advised that it's good practice for an employer in this situation to treat it as sick leave or offer the employee the option to work from home or take the period as paid annual leave. If an employee does not want to go into work due to concerns around catching coronavirus, then employers should listen to their concerns and offer reassurance.

If coronavirus spreads more widely in the UK, Acas advice is that employers should:

  • Make sure staff contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date;
  • Make sure managers are clear on workplace processes such as sickness and absence policies;
  • Implement NHS advice on hygiene such as encouraging everyone to wash their hands regularly and ensuring there are clean places to wash hands with soap and water;
  • Give out hand sanitisers and tissues to staff and encourage their use.

Employers should also make plans in the event that they have to close their workplace temporarily. Considerations should include asking staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to work from home, arranging paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computer and making sure staff have a way to communicate with their employer and work colleagues.

Written by Rachel Miller.

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