In a time of this global pandemic, it can be challenging for
employers, employees and apprentices to keep up to date with their rights and
As the situation changes daily, we strongly advise that you
consult official websites for health and employment guidelines, in
What is Coronavirus and what are the symptoms?
Coronavirus is the name for a large group of viruses, which
include Covid-19, a new disease first identified in Wuhan City, China. It is
spread through close contact with others, for example if someone breathes in
droplets of infected fluid from a cough; it can also be caught from
contaminated objects or surfaces.
The main symptoms of Covid-19 are: a cough, difficulty breathing
and a fever/high temperature. Anyone with underlying health issues such
as diabetes, cancer and lung disease, or low immune systems, pregnant women and
older people are more vulnerable to the symptoms.
Because it is so contagious and can be potentially
life-threatening to vulnerable people, it is advised that anyone with symptoms
or concerns should stay at home, self-isolate and call NHS 111 for further
What should employers be aware of?
As of the time of writing, the government-funded independent
public body Acas (Advisory, Conciliation
and Arbitration Service), recommends that employers keep themselves informed of
regular government updates and update their workers to reduce the risk of
Employers should also:
- Provide suitable places to wash hands using soap
and hot water and ensure staff do so on a regular basis; provide hand sanitiser
- Ensure all emergency contact numbers for
employees and other workers are up to date
- Introduce measures to protect those who are
pregnant, have a pre-existing medical condition or are over the age of 70
- Help workers avoid unnecessary travel
- Facilitate working from home where possible
- Ensure managers are aware of symptoms of
Coronavirus and are up-to-date on processes and procedures for staff who fall
ill or are required to self-isolate
For more information, regularly updated, visit: https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
What rights and responsibilities do employees have?
If an employee is required to self-isolate, they should
receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
The government has updated its policy in light of the
Coronavirus outbreak: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/287/pdfs/uksi_20200287_en.pdf
Self-isolation is required if an employee or someone in
their household has Coronavirus or symptoms such as a high temperature or a new
continuous cough, or if they have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS
111. Those returning from trips to infected areas should also self-isolate and
contact NHS 111 for advice.
What happens when a workplace closes?
If a workplace is closed, employers should try to facilitate
their employees working from home if possible, and pay them as usual.
If the business is closed down or staff are asked to reduce
hours, employers must pay them unless it says otherwise in their contract.
Take a look at Acas information on Layoffs and
Employers can also ask staff to take holiday while a
workplace is closed but should inform themselves of the legislation around this
first, such as the prior notice period.
What if an employee needs time off to care for someone?
An employer should allow time off for staff to care for
another person, for example a dependent who is sick or children who are off
school. At present the employer is not obliged to offer pay, but this may
change with government legislation for Coronavirus.
What if an employee becomes ill at work?
The person should isolate themselves from colleagues and
call NHS 111 or 999 if seriously unwell (using their own phone).
The local Public Health England (PHE) can advise on actions
to take if an employee is diagnosed or falls ill at work, such as advising
staff and deep cleaning.
What rights do apprentices have compared with employees?
Apprentices have exactly the same rights as employees when
it comes to Coronavirus. They should be treated in the same way and supported
by their managers and co-workers, both in the workplace and if they fall ill or
request home working.