Coronavirus: what are your rights at work?

Coronavirus: what are your rights at work?

Find out your rights if you have to take time off work due because of coronavirus

Brean Horne
Tue, 03/03/2020 – 12:17


As more cases of coronavirus are reported in the UK, some people are being advised to self-isolate to prevent the virus spreading.

People have been advised to self-isolate if:

  • They have returned from an area which has had a coronavirus outbreak
  • They have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus

We outline your rights if you have to take time out of work because of coronavirus.  

What is self-isolation?

Self-isolation involves staying at a secure indoor location and avoiding contact with other people. This is to prevent you from spreading the disease to your family, friends and the wider community.

Public Health England (PHE) guidance recommends a self-isolation period of 14 days.

When self-isolating you must:

  • Stay indoors
  • Not go to work, school or public areas
  • Not use public transport e.g. buses trains, tubes or taxis
  • Avoid visitors to your home
  • Ask friends, family members or delivery services to carry out errands for you e.g. getting groceries, medication and other shopping

For more information on how to self-isolate correctly read the full PHE guidance.

Will I get paid if I self-isolate?

If you have been instructed to self-isolate, you will be entitled to sick leave. According to health secretary Matt Hancock, self-isolation should be considered “sickness for employment purposes.” The amount of pay you’ll receive will depend on your employment contract. If your employer doesn’t not offer sick pay, you will be entitled to statutory sick pay for up to 28 weeks. This is currently £94.25 per week from the fourth day of illness.

What happens if I’m not sick, but work tells me to stay home?

If you are not ill and have not be asked to self-isolate but your employer tells you to stay home, you will be entitled to your usual pay.

What happens if I have to take time out of work to care for someone?

You are entitled to take time off work to help someone who depends on you in an ‘unexpected emergency’. This includes:

  • If your child’s school has been closed and you have to arrange childcare
  • Your child or another dependent is sick, needs to go into isolation or the hospital

While there is no statutory right to pay for this time off, some employers may offer pay depending on your contract or workplace policy.

What happens if someone with coronavirus comes to work?

If someone with coronavirus comes to work, the PHE health protection team will get in touch with your employer to assess the case. They will then be advised on actions or precautions to take, for example, closing down the workplace.

What happens if I don’t want to go to work in case I catch coronavirus?

If you are afraid of catching coronavirus at work, speak to your employer immediately.

Employers should try to resolve your concerns and ensure the health and safety of their staff. For example, you may be given the option to work from home for a certain period of time.

If you still don’t want to go into the office, your employer may be able to arrange for you to take time off as holiday or unpaid leave. They are not obliged to do so, and persistent absence from work could result in disciplinary action.

Can I still claim benefits if I self-isolate?

If you are unable to attend your usual appointments due to self-isolation, you’ll need to phone the office responsible for paying your benefit and explain your reason for absence. Not doing this could result in you losing your benefits payments. If you are on Universal Credit, you can use your online journal to explain why you’re unable to attend an appointment.

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