5 March 2020
How MHR can support you in the current Coronavirus epidemic
The old saying that coughs and sneezes spread diseases has never been truer than now.
With the news that 1 in 5 of the UK workforce could well be absent from work due to the Coronavirus, how should employers manage this and how can you ensure that you have the ability to continue to pay your employees correctly and on time? The Government has announced it will pass emergency legislation that for Coronavirus-related absence, Statutory Sick Pay should be paid from day one (instead of day four). Our recommendation would be to follow this guidance from now, even before the new legislation is passed.
But what else can you do to support your staff and meet your duty of care as an employer during this difficult time?
Things you can do as an employer to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus
Have a nominated person or working party who keep up to date by regularly checking websites such as:
In the UK:
You should also:
- Share health advice with staff, for example ensuring that everyone knows what hygiene regime they should be following to prevent spreading the virus; what to do if they believe they have potentially come into contact with someone who has the virus; or what actions they should take if they are showing symptoms. Ensure managers know how to spot the symptoms which include fever, cough and shortness of breath
- Encourage good hygiene by providing tissues and hand sanitisers and placing handwashing best practice notices in toilet areas – these are available online.
- See if you could run your business in a way which limits the spread of the virus, for example, follow Government advice on travel, enable employees to work from home as necessary, use video conferencing etc. and keep these plans under review.
- Put in place and communicate procedures which support sensible management of the Coronavirus risk by employees. Examples could include publishing what will happen if they need to self-isolate or to look after dependants (for example, due to a school closure).
Provide health advice to your staff
Advise your staff so that they:
- Know what the Coronavirus symptoms are (these include fever, cough and shortness of breath)
- Catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue and throw it away (then wash hands). If no tissues are available, then use the crook of their arm) – it is likely that the virus is spread via water droplets in the breath
- Regular and thorough hand washing in hot, soapy water (and use hand sanitisers if available)
- Do not touch their eyes, nose or mouth unless with clean hands
- Do not visit the doctor or A&E but call NHS 111 in the UK, or their GP in Ireland, for advice and next steps if they feel unwell. If seriously unwell, they should dial 999.
If an employee becomes unwell at work
If an employee shows Coronavirus symptoms or if they have been to an affected region and begin to feel unwell, stand at least two metres away from them. Ask them to isolate themselves in a room if this is possible – or ensure they are at least two metres away from others. Ask them to use their own phone to call NHS 111 in the UK or 999 (dependent on the severity of how ill they are feeling). Instruction will be given from that point. While in the room, they should avoid touching objects and should catch any coughs or sneezes in a tissue. If they need the bathroom, ensure other employees do not then use the bathroom where possible.
What if an employee needs to self-isolate?
If an employee has been instructed to self-isolate, you should support this. The self-isolation period is two weeks. If the employee is not ill, you could ask them to work from home. If this is not possible or they are ill, you should treat this as a sickness absence. In this instance, if an employee shows Coronavirus symptoms or if they have been to an affected region and begin to feel unwell, stand at least 2 metres away from them. Ask them to isolate themselves in a room if this is possible – or ensure they are at least 2 metres away from others. Ask them to use their own phone to call NHS 111 or 999 (dependent on the severity of how ill they are feeling). Instruction will be given from that point. While in the room, they should avoid touching objects and should catch any coughs or sneezes in a tissue. If they need the bathroom, ensure other employees do not then use the bathroom where possible.
What if an employee does not need to self-isolate but does not want to come to work due to the Coronavirus?
Listen to their concerns and try to alleviate these. You could choose to help by offering home or flexible working, for instance. However, you are not required to do this if it does not suit the needs of the business or would create an issue with other employees. If they still ask to self-isolate and are unable to continue working if they do so, you could offer that they take holiday or unpaid leave. You do not have to offer these options. Ultimately, if an employee refuses to come to work without good reason, this would be a disciplinary matter.
Pay for employees for Coronavirus-related absence
- If the employee is sick with Coronavirus or its symptoms, they are due sick pay.
- If the employee has been sent home by the company due to Coronavirus-related concerns, they are due their normal pay.
- If the employee self-isolates and has been given written notice (typically issued by a GP or NHS 111 in the UK), then they are entitled to sick pay.
- If the employee has chosen to self-isolate, and/or is not given written notice to do so, they are not entitled to sick pay.
- The Irish Government has published a list of essential service providers under new public health guidelines.
MHR has an unsurpassed pedigree in the payroll market. We are well placed to assist you through this difficult time, our net pay accuracy is at 99.99% and we can support your business by ensuring your employees are paid correctly and when they should be. With over 35 years in the payroll market, MHR has well-established and rigorous business continuity plans to ensure all our employees can continue to perform their roles which in turn enables you to continue to pay your staff on time.
ROI COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme
On the 26th March 2020, a new COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme became effective, replacing the Employer Covid Refund Scheme.
The Subsidy Scheme provides payment support to employers who have encountered significant negative disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows employers to retain eligible employees on the payroll and pay these a calculated subsidy payment along with any additional wages. Revenue will process a refund back to employers upon receipt of a qualifying payroll submission.