Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said Britons returning from quarantined Italian towns must self-isolate, even if they have no symptoms.
In addition, those with flu-like symptoms coming back from areas of Italy north of Pisa should stay at home for 14 days.
Staff from Chevron and Crossrail have also been asked to work from home as a precaution.
Workers who are ill are entitled to statutory sick pay. But the law says if you stay away from work but aren’t sick, you may not get paid.
I’ve been told to self isolate. Will I get paid if I’m not at work?
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has sent guidance to UK employers telling them staff who have been asked to self-isolate are entitled to take the time as sick leave.
Acas, the independent arbitration service agrees and has also published advice fr staff and employers
But senior adviser Michele Piertney told the BBC: “If a medical expert says we are putting you into quarantine then you… won’t get sick leave as a matter of course.”
If you can work from home, you may be able to carry on as normal, says Sarah Evans, employment law partner at JMW Solicitors. But shop and factory workers probably won’t have that option.
Acas, says it’s “good practice” for your employer to treat it as sick leave or agree for the time to be taken as holiday.
“Otherwise there’s a risk the employee will come to work because they want to get paid,” it says.
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The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development goes a step further and says “there’s also a strong moral responsibility to ensure that employees feel safe and secure in their employment”, and that firms should make home working easier and be flexible with time off.
But this is only advice and not the law if it is you who decides to self-isolate, rather than your boss who asks you to.
“There is no statutory right to pay if you aren’t sick,” says Ms Evans. Although some contracts may be more generous than others.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “People who are prevented from working because of a risk to public health are able to claim universal credit.”
She said they may also be entitled to contributory employment and support allowance, which helps with living costs for people who cannot work because of a health condition.
What if I have to care for someone else? Will I be paid then?
If you have a relative who is ill, or your children’s school is closed or another situation arises where you must look after them at short notice, your employer must give you time off to do so, says Ms Evans. You probably won’t be paid for it, however, unless that’s a perk in your contract.
It extends to other dependants too, including a domestic partner or parent.
Again, if you can do your job from home, this might be a good solution, she says.
I am too ill to work. Will I get paid?
If you are sick, or have symptoms, you qualify for at least statutory sick pay, or whatever your contract may provide over and above that.
Statutory sick pay (SSP) is £94.25 per week and can be paid for up to 28 weeks. It is only paid from the fourth day of sickness. A doctor’s note may not be necessary.
“You can self-sign off with symptoms of flu without seeing a doctor,” says Ms Evans.
I’m self-employed. What about me?
There’s no statutory sick pay for the self-employed. However, if you are a casual or agency worker you should qualify.
For zero-hours workers, the legal ground is less secure, says Citizens Advice. You can ask, but you might not get it: “You can still get sick pay – you should ask your employer for it. If they say no, ask them to explain why.”
Most people who earn at least £118 per week before tax should qualify.
I have a history of illness and now I have to be off again. Will I be fired?
While long, frequent absences can get you sacked, workers can take some comfort from the fact that the call to self-isolate is government advice and is designed to stop the spread of disease.
Also, employers have a responsibility to stop their workers from falling ill.
“I don’t think we will have many cases at tribunal where people have been sacked because they have followed government advice,” says Ms Evans. “I don’t think it’s something most people should worry about necessarily.”
She adds: “I would expect to advise employers to accommodate what they can for as long as they can.”
There are, however, no hard and fast rules as to when and whether being fired for illness becomes an unfair dismissal.
“There is no cut-off,” says Ms Evans. “It very much depends on the circumstances.”
Who do I have to tell and when?
Ms Evans says that “to be on the safe side I’d be communicating with my employer every day”.
Not telling your boss why you are off work could breach your contract.