We are starting to get enquiries about how to deal with employees who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. If, as unfortunately seems likely, this becomes more prevalent, it is a topic that many employers will have to address.
The key point is of course to encourage employees to follow current government guidance, which can be found here. It may well be worth thinking about what information and instructions to provide to employees who have been exposed to the coronavirus; some employers are drawing up policies, whilst others are taking a more ad hoc approach as and when issues arise.
Some employees who are advised to self-isolate may be able to work from home with minimal disruption. This won’t be practicable for every employee though and some may not be able to do their jobs at all. The question likely to be asked is whether an employee required to stay at home is entitled to pay. This may be covered by a contract term but will not be covered in most contracts of employment.
If employees are displaying symptoms of illness such that they are not fit for work, it will certainly be reasonable to require them to take sickness absence (and to be paid under your sick pay procedures). If they are symptom-free, the situation is not quite as clear-cut. There is no general obligation to pay employees who are following government guidance to stay at home and self-isolate. Having said that, it may be to your advantage to do so (as employees are more likely to observe quarantine if they are being paid) and of course employees who suddenly find themselves without pay may struggle financially; ACAS guidance is that it is good practice to either treat this as sickness absence or allow employees to take it as paid holiday (if they have sufficient holiday left). If you are going beyond government guidance and requiring employees to self-isolate in circumstances where there is no public health advice to do so, you should really be paying the employee.
Do let us know if you have any employment law concerns and the team will be happy to help.