Swine flu and sickness absence

The Swine flu pandemic is currently major headline news and having an increasing impact upon the population, there has been a natural increase in the levels of sickness absence and concern. However, the pandemic is leaving both employers and recruiters with a number of questions, for example are you obliged to pay a worker during their absence, are there are special precautions that you need to take, what about people who are off because their children are ill, should staff be allowed to work from home and can you ask someone who you believe may have symptoms to remain away from work?

Legally, swine flu is no different from ordinary flu or any other illness, for most healthy people who do not fall within a high risk category, the government’s advice is that the symptoms should be mild and the illness relatively short term. Therefore whilst a sensible approach should be taken, there is no legal obligation on an employer or recruiter to treat such persons any differently than you would had they been off sick for an alternative reason. If an employee or worker was previously entitled to just statutory sick pay, there will be no obligation to pay any more than this.

In terms of precautions, whilst all employers have general duties to provide safe systems and places of work, a sensible approach, to avoid staff shortages, may be to encourage good hygiene, to ensure that appropriate hand washing faculties and so on are provided, and to encourage staff that have symptoms to remain away from work. There may be staff for which risk levels are higher, such as those with underlying health conditions or pregnant women and again a sensible approach would be to consult with such persons regarding any concerns they may have regarding travel or attending any work related events.

Further practical steps may also include ensuring that you have sufficient cover, and that staff are aware and able to pick up each other’s work in the event of staff absence and so that deals and placements are not lost.

If you have any queries regarding Swine flu, staff absence or other employment related matters, please contact Theresa Mimnagh or Rhian Phillips on 01273 236 236

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