Amid the significant outbreak of COVID-19 – or the Coronavirus, as it is more commonly known – in various European states in the last couple of weeks, employers are finding themselves facing insurmountable pressure to determine what action to take if an employee would have returned from a high-risk destination.

Serious precaution should be taken with regard to travel to and from affected areas.  Several companies have taken measures to suspend all business trips, irrespective of the location, and are encouraging alternative measures for international meetings to be held, such as via video conferencing.

Major issues are nonetheless are on the rise with employees returning from areas where restricted travel has been recommended, such as Northern Italy.  Whilst these employees may not actually feel ill, it has been recommended that a period of self-quarantine should be observed, as the Coronavirus might take a few days to manifest itself if at all present in one’s body.  Whilst some employers may have the luxury of allowing employees to work from home, others have no such option and are finding themselves at odds as to what to do.  Acas has issued guidance and recommendations as to what steps should be taken.  Such guidance is accessible on the following link: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus.

Whilst previously, employers were left up to their vices on whether to treat such situations as holiday leave of sick leave, on Wednesday, Health Secretary Matt Hancock issued guidance to employers, concluding that cases of self-isolation are to be construed as “sickness for employment purposes” and therefore, any employee absent for such reasons is entitled to take sick leave.

Essentially, whilst an idle case does not necessarily merit a situation where all employees are sent home, employers are greatly encouraged to take all possible precautions and encourage good workplace hygiene practices as the most effective way to combat infection.  Want to know more about this? Check out last month’s blog post!

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