Commercial Law

Covid-19: Some legal points (and best practice) to consider

March 13, 2020

With the increasing concerns and likely spread of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) employers are now beginning to ask what the legal implications are should member of staff become ill with the virus or be required to self-isolate. The Government is regularly providing updated advice, so we would always recommend checking their guidance which will be the most up to date, however it is also advisable to follow good practice guidelines and to keep legislation in mind.



Good Practice

It’s important for all employers to implement best practice guidelines in order to support and protect their staff. Keeping everyone up to date and aware of any risks that they may experience if they come to work will ensure that staff remain calm. It is also advisable to check that you have up to date contact details and that all employees have a call chain that they can contact line managers and supervisors through.


We also advise that staff are aware of the symptoms of Covid-19:

  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever

These symptoms can appear up to 14 days after exposure and can be more severe for people with reduced immune systems and long-term conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or lung illnesses.


Employers should ensure that their employees have a clean place to wash and dry their hands and that hand sanitiser and tissues are available if required.

For any team members that may need to travel, it is worthwhile considering whether the travel is essential and also checking the Foreign Office website to confirm that they do not consider that country or area to be a risk.


Employment Legislation

If your employee is required by a doctor or NHS111 to self-isolate, they will be eligible to receive statutory sick pay at rate of £94.25 per week. This includes employees who may be carriers but who are not showing symptoms. This will be paid from the first day of absence and will require a written notice from the medical professional who requested self-isolation.

For employees who are following official guidance to self-isolate and are showing symptoms, it is advisable to consider your company’s sick pay policy as they may not be able to easily obtain a sick note.  

If as an employer you decide to send your staff home, they should be paid their normal pay. School closures may also cause disruption and staff may need to stay home with their children. In these cases, we would advise, where possible, that you enable them to work from home, taking in to account some disruption to their productivity, or offer them an option paid holiday or unpaid emergency time off or parental leave.


Should a member of staff choose to self-isolate without being advised by a medical professional and where they are showing no symptoms, employers can require them to attend work. However, it is important to consider that in situations where there are heightened concerns about public health that their concerns be taken seriously, particularly if they have underlying physical or mental health issues.


Health & Safety Legislation

Should you require staff to work longer hours to cover absence you must remember to comply with Working Time Regulations 1998 which specify the appropriate length of shifts and breaks.


It is also important to remember that as an employer you have duties of responsibility over the health and safety of employees within the workplace.


Discrimination and Harassment within the Workplace

Employers are liable for any harassment or discrimination that occurs in the workplace unless they have taken reasonable steps to prevent it. We recommend that all employers revisit their policies and take any allegations of discrimination or harassment related to Covid-19 seriously.


If you are an employer and would like legal advice on how Covid-19 could affect your employees or business, please contact us to make a face to face or telephone appointment with one of our solicitors on: 01795 472291 or email: enquiries@jarmans-solicitors.co.uk