Covid-19 coronavirus update

28 February 2020

With the increasing spread of the Covid-19 Coronavirus and its potential effect on the workplace a number of members have been looking for guidance on how to deal with the issues that may arise within a workplace.

It is important to note that the situation is very fluid and government guidance is changing daily. We can therefore only provide a general guide that should be used with care. Furthermore, as we are not medical professionals. We cannot provide any medial advice on the virus, its treatment or transmission. This guidance is current for 28 February 2020.

How can we reduce the risk to our business and employees?

The government provides daily updates regarding Covid-19 Coronavirus, which can be found at, the current risk level to the UK is set to Moderate.

Both the Government as well as ACAs have provided guidance for employers these can be found at:

Employers should produce guidance encouraging employees to be extra-vigilant with washing their hands, using and disposing of tissues etc. You should also consider providing additional hand sanitisers and washing facilities.

What if employees do not want to come to work?

Employees can at any time request time off as holiday or unpaid leave but there is no obligation on employers to agree to this unless it is contained within the contract. Unless an employee is ill and can provide a Statutory Sick Note to cover the absence period, or any absence is agreed, employees have a legal duty to make themselves available for work.

If employees are worried about catching coronavirus and are unwilling to come into work, you should listen carefully to any concerns raised and consider what adjustments, if any can be made to deal with any concerns, i.e. the provision of hand sanitiser etc… If possible, consider whether flexible working arrangements such as homeworking.

If an employee refuses to attend work, you are entitled to take disciplinary action. However, given the nature of the issues currently, unless employees have a significant disciplinary history that is relevant dismissal is likely to be outside the range of reasonable responses.

If the matter cannot be resolved amicably and employees continue to refuse to come into work seek further advice.

What happens if an Employee is sick and/ or put into Quarantine?

If an employee is put into quarantine on medical orders then it should be dealt with as any other period of sickness. Whilst employees can self-certify for a period of 7 days, we would advise that you obtain further details from the employee and consider requesting a Statutory Sick Note or medical report from the doctor.

If an employee is not sick but is in quarantine or self-isolation, do we have to pay them sick pay?

There is no legal right to sick pay unless an employee is actually sick. Self-isolation will not trigger SSP, you may wish to consider whether to pay SSP if an employee is Self-Isolating due to an illness in the household on the basis that otherwise you run the risk of them coming into work and potentially spreading the virus to the rest of the workforce.

In Conclusion

Whilst the Corvid-19 coronavirus is new and therefore represents an unknown, the UK population regularly deals with the Cold and Flu virus at this time of year; both of which can cause symptoms similar to Corvid-19.

Don’t forget, this advice is general in nature and will need to be tailored to any one particular situation. As an RMI member you have access to the RMI Legal advice line, as well as a number of industry experts for your assistance. Should you find yourself in the situation above, contact us at any stage for advice and assistance as appropriate.