What are your rights at work if you get coronavirus?
PUBLISHED: 19:00 05 March 2020
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As the number of people in the UK with coronavirus continues to rise, an Ipswich lawyer has explained workers rights should they need to call in sick.
With concerns growing daily about the impact of the condition on the workforce, Jeanette Wheeler, a partner at Birketts, has outlined options facing anyone who contracts the virus.
People who are sick and need to take time off work might qualify for statutory sick pay of £94.25 per week.
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Ms Wheeler said: "Employees and some workers (those who pay class 1 National Insurance contributions) and who are paid an average of at least £118 per week over the previous eight weeks will usually qualify.
"Until now there has been a three day waiting period for eligibility for statutory sick pay to kick in but the Government has announced that it intends to rush through legislation to remove this waiting period."
People on a zero hour contract may also be eligible for statutory sick pay depending on their contract.
Other people may have enhanced sick pay provided by their employer, but this depends on the terms of their contract.
Ms Wheeler said anyone told to self-isolate by the NHS to prevent the spread of the disease should be eligible for statutory sick pay.
Whether or not you are eligible for enhanced sick pay will depend on your contract.
"Self-isolation which is not supported by a medical professional may not be covered by SSP or contractual sick pay, but it is hoped your employer will be supportive. However if your employer insists that you self-isolate in these circumstances then arguably you are entitled to your normal pay."
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Some people, such as pregnant women or people with cystic fibrosis (CF) may be at greater risk from coronavirus.
Ms Wheeler said: "Pregnant employees have a right to work safely and employers are duty bound to send them home and pay them in full if they cannot mitigate risks to a pregnant woman or her unborn child.
"Employees who are particularly vulnerable, for example those with cancer or CF, may argue that home working is a reasonable adjustment which the employer must make.
"Employees with mental health problems such as an anxiety disorder who become unable to work due to the additional anxiety of coronavirus will need to evidence their absence for mental health illness in the usual way."
Most employers will let you have seven days off work before you need to have note from a GP.
"If you need to stay at home to look after your children because their school is closed and you cannot work from home then you are entitled to a 'reasonable' period of unpaid time off for dependants leave," Ms Wheeler added.
"You could consider asking your employer if you can take some time as paid annual leave."
Some employers will struggle financially because of the economic impact of coronavirus. This might mean that they will ask you to take some paid annual leave or reduce your working hours.
If so they will have to give you a period of notice as required under the Working Time Regulations.
Ms Wheeler said: "A small number of employers have lay-off and short-time working provisions in their contracts which they may exercise and which would entitle you to a statutory guarantee payment capped at £29 a day, subject to a maximum of five days or £145 in any three months."
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