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money.co.uk comment: coronavirus and your sick pay rights

Written by Salman Haqqi, Senior Personal Finance Writer

3 March 2020

We explain employee rights when it comes to coronavirus and sick pay.

Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said: "Normal sick leave and rights to pay should apply if you contract coronavirus (COVID-19), but checking in with your employer now is a good idea to understand your company's sickness policy.

"If you have or do contract the virus, you need to let your bosses know as soon as possible that you are not able to work. However, if you are not actually sick, but have been told by a medical expert to self-isolate, unfortunately there is no legal right to pay but you should check your company's policy for clarity.

"If you are quarantined abroad and not allowed to travel, most employers will treat it as sick leave and follow their usual sick pay rules or agree for the time to be taken as holiday.

"Employers are also being encouraged to make allowances if their company absence and sickness rules require proof from the employee. If an employee cannot get a sick note because they've been told to self-isolate for 14 days, allowances should be made.

"If an employee isn't sick but is told by their boss not to come to work as a preventative measure, they will likely get their usual pay. But always ask for formal written permission, should you need it.

"Employees are entitled to time off if a dependent, such as a child or elderly parent, is sick and needs their help. If your dependent needs to be isolated or your children's school has closed and you have to arrange childcare, the same rules apply.

"There is, however, no statutory right to pay for this time off, but many employers will offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy. The amount of time off an employee takes to look after someone must be reasonable for the situation.

"As the situation with coronavirus is constantly evolving, as best practice, employers should regularly update their workforce with advice from Public Health England, as well as any changes or impact this advice has to internal sickness policies."

Latest advice on certifying absence from work from Public Health England: By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, if any, from the employee. This does not need to be fit note (Med 3 form) issued by a GP or other doctor.

The employee will be advised to isolate themselves and not to work in contact with other people by NHS 111 or PHE if they are a carrier of, or have been in contact with, an infectious or contagious disease, such as COVID-19.

We strongly suggest that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to self-isolate due to suspected COVID-19, in accordance with the public health advice being issued by the government.

Comment issued on 3 March 2020 - information correct at time of publication

Press@money.co.uk

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Salman Haqqi

Salman Haqqi, Senior Personal Finance Writer

Salman Haqqi spent 10 years as a journalist reporting in several countries around the world. He left the world of journalism to pursue his passion for personal finance.

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Joel Kempson

Joel Kempson, Personal Finance Writer

Joel Kempson devotes his time to helping people navigate the world of personal finance and make informed decisions about their money. He spent his early career writing about TV, movies, comic books and rock music.

Read Joel Kempson's articles and guides