As the situation continues to unfold, our team are taking calls and emails looking for support and reassurance on similar topics so we've pulled together the most Frequently Asked Questions.
How does the sick pay work? Do I have to pay SSP? Do I have to pay CSP?
SSP is a legal entitlement for employees who are "off sick" - in these circumstances, self-isolation is being classified under this banner. So, if your employee is off due to self-isolation for whatever reason they are entitled to SSP.
If you have under 250 employees (SMEs) then you will be able to claim this back from day one - we're unsure of the procedures around this as they have not been clearly laid out, so this is something to watch out for. So the simple answer is: yes, you have to pay SSP.
However, CSP is a different animal altogether. CSP is not a legal entitlement and can be applied (or not) at the employers discretion. Many companies offer CSP, which is offered for periods of genuine illness - in the current circumstances, the employer has the discretionary right to apply CSP differently.
What is important is that: (a) you, as the employer, have a clear understanding of when/why you would apply CSP, (b) you have clear reasoning as to what the business needs are for this decisions, (c) you have reviewed the alternative options (if any) and (d) you are applying this change to the entire team in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory fashion. In the present circumstances, we have to look after the whole and not the few - this is something to bring your staff together to explain so everyone receives the same message.
A member of my team is pregnant, how do I handle this?
Pregnant women are high risk and should be asked to home-work (if there are the facilities) or self-isolate. Depending on what stage of the pregnancy she is at can alter what options you have. The aspects you should be aware of is that Maternity Leave can start 11 weeks prior to the predicted date of birth, so if your employee is within this window you can perhaps discuss moving her onto Maternity Leave early. She will also be accruing holiday, so another idea would be to use her remaining holiday from this year prior to her moving onto Mat Leave.
If she is in the early stages of pregnancy, there are no "statutory" options so you can look at holiday, home-working or self-isolation using her SSP entitlement as above.
What happens if the Government puts the country into "lockdown" or starts quarantining regions?
Obviously we're not at that stage yet, although quarantine zones are likely not far away.
If the Government quarantines the region you operate in and the business is forced to close - the thing we should be reviewing now is the ability for our teams to home-work, this requires some out-of-the-box thinking and this is where you should be looking to your team for creative solutions. This may require your team to multi-skill, divert office phones to "work mobiles", create central points of contact within the team who can access secure data remotely who then delegate tasks outwards etc.
For those who can home-work, you can negotiate shortened hours if required but for the hours they work they should be earning a their full rate. However, if they cannot work from home and have to go into self-isolation, they need to move onto SSP which is £94.25 a week - so, in reality, it's in their benefit to find creative solutions to allow them to work from home as well, even if just for a couple of hours a day.
How long will we (the employees) continue to have a job if the country is in lockdown?
We can't clearly answer this, because we have limited information as to when this could happen and if it does for how long. Obviously we are advising employers to look at different ways of reducing staff costs without looking at redundancies, and we would actively encourage these to be open and transparent conversation with the employees so that everyone can work towards keeping the business afloat and everyone in their jobs. Everyone is responsible.
If the business is in a position where maintaining all their employees is impossible as recovery is going to be a long process once normal trading starts again, then redundancies may be the only option. However, there is a clear procedure - as detailed by ACAS - that must be followed in cases of redundancies.
What happens if a member of the team starts showing flu-like symptoms?
If any employees starts to feel unwell or develops any symptoms, the critical thing is that they don't come into work. The staff should be advised if anyone has called off ill, especially those that work closer to that individual - they can make their own decisions, but if you determine any risk then you can ask them to self-isolate (or home-work) for the pay discussed above.
We have clear directions that if any member of the employees family displays symptoms the employee must isolate to ensure they don't become a carrier. This requires strict codes of conduct for employees, everyone must act responsibly and ensure easy methods of communication.
Until the regions are locked down, most businesses will still attempt to operate and so everyone must act responsibly for the betterment of the whole.