Many employees who are not ill may have to stay at home nonetheless, because they have:
• travelled to a high or medium risk country,
• been in contact with someone who is sick,
• to look after their children who are home from school,
• pre-existing conditions that make them vulnerable and are staying home as a precaution.
It is also possible that the Government may announce further compulsory measures that make it impossible for employees to come to work.
If an employee has to stay home, but have not yet tested positive and do not have symptoms the employee will not be entitled to take sick leave. Employees will either have to take annual leave or unpaid leave. This is the case even if the employee is ‘forced’ to stay home by the employer’s policies or by the Government.
This will seem unfair to employees and some employers may be in the position to provide more paid leave to support their employees and employers are creating special policies in light of the epidemic. This is recommended in the majority of the guidelines and articles that have been written about this topic. As you consider whether you want to do this, keep these things in mind:
• If you do not offer some form of paid leave, many of your employees will be tempted out of necessity not to disclose that they are ill or that they have been in contact with someone who is ill. This may put the rest of your employees in danger.
• Can you afford doing this for all employees who might claim for special leave? Once you start, you are going to have to be consistent.
• For how long will you be able to afford it? Keep in mind that you may also have to pay to replace that employee if they are in a critical function.
• Before you announce the special arrangement, have you created a policy with clear rules and guidelines? This will help with consistency.
However, the reality is that many employers won’t be able to afford this option. It should also be approached carefully as exceptions will set a precedent that can quickly become too expensive for the employer. Please get advice before adopting this strategy.
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