The British government is advising thousands of people to self-isolate to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but what are your rights when it comes to work?
Employment lawyer Rubel Bashir, from Slater and Gordon, says both employers and employees in the UK have a duty of care and “discretion is needed” with such an unusual situation as a coronavirus outbreak.
What should employers do to protect staff?
Employers have an obligation under British law to take reasonable steps to protect staff health and safety.
Mr Bashir said: “These include educating staff, sending emails on cleanliness, providing hand sanitisers, cleaning communal areas. Employers are required to take those steps.”
Should staff travel be restricted?
Employers should restrict staff travel to places where there has been a COVID-19outbreak as part of their duty of care.
“If an outbreak happens while they are there, an employer has an obligation to ensure their safety and that of other staff,” Mr Bashir said.
© Imagebridge Tourists with masks in the pool of a Tenerife hotel placed on lockdown
Can employers stop staff going on holiday to high-risk regions?
Mr Bashir said: “There’d be risks on employers to have such a blanket policy as while it may not affect most of us, people may want to visit relatives.
“That could be discriminatory if they are banned by their company.
“An employer should direct them to government advice. An employee should realise that if they did travel there then that’s causing more problems for themselves if they have to self-isolate or risk contracting COVID-19.”
What if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 then comes into work?
Mr Bashir said: “If someone knows they have coronavirus, there’s possibly a case to be made that the infected person has breached a duty of care.
“In theory that could happen but if they’re high-risk then they would have a duty not to work.
“Anything before that, it would be very harsh or unreasonable to not be allowed to work at all.”
The government does not recommend closing down the workplace and Public Health England (PHE) will contact the management team to discuss the case and contact anybody who has been close to the infected person.
Staff who have had close contact with that person will be asked by PHE to self-isolate at home for 14 days from the last time they had contact with the infected person.
What do you do if someone suspected to have COVID-19 has recently been in your workplace?
If there is a suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace, the government says no restrictions or special control measures are required while waiting for laboratory tests.