COVID-19: Employment Law FAQ’s

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With Government restrictions changing, here are some FAQ’s that we are regularly asked:

Should employers cancel their Christmas office party?

The government has indicated that Christmas parties can still take place, but employers should emphasise to their staff that they should only attend if they feel comfortable doing so. They should consider taking precautionary measures, such as hiring a venue with adequate ventilation, ask staff to complete testing prior to the event and use face coverings where possible, and try to keep numbers to a minimum.

How much should employers pay someone who is self-isolating?

Staff must be paid at least Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they cannot work because they are self-isolating because they have COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive, they are not fully vaccinated and someone in their household has symptoms or has tested positive, they have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, or they have been advised by their doctor or a healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery.

Should employers be telling staff to work from home?

The government has announced that from Monday 13 December 2021, office workers who can work from home should do so. Employers should once again think about the health and safety of their staff working from home. For those who need to go into the workplace, whilst the government relaxed its 2-metre rule over the summer, employers still have a duty to mitigate the risks to their staff.

Can employers mandate vaccination?

Many employers are likely to encourage staff to take the vaccine rather than to mandate it. Requiring staff to take the vaccine could be regarded as a ‘reasonable instruction’ by an employer, but it will depend on the circumstances. For example, employers in the social care sector may be able to reason that a refusal to become vaccinated could put vulnerable people at risk. However, dismissal for failure to follow a reasonable instruction could still be unfair with each case considered on a case-by-case basis. Any difference in treatment between those who have and those who haven’t been vaccinated may also amount to indirect discrimination. Requiring staff to prove their vaccination status also gives rise to issues around data protection.

Can employers prevent staff from travelling abroad?

Whilst an employer cannot forbid their workers from travelling abroad, it remains reasonable to ask staff to keep employers informed of their international travel plans given the potential for business disruption. It is sensible to ensure staff are aware of the implications if they were to be stuck abroad or are required to self-isolate on their return to the UK. SSP is not available for those who are in quarantine after travelling abroad. Therefore, employers should warn employees who are unable to work from home about the likelihood of being unpaid during a period of quarantine if they do not have enough annual leave entitlement.


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