First Practice Management
- Posted Friday March 20, 2020
We are receiving a high volume of queries regarding paying employees who are absent from work. Based on our current understanding as of 18/03/2020.
Over 70s and those in high-risk groups:
The government has not yet asked the over 70s and vulnerable people to isolate themselves. They have asked them to socially distance themselves, which is different, though is likely to change in the next few days. There are some considered “high risk”, that have just had transplant surgery, for example, that have received medical advice to self-isolate. Employees can socially distance themselves in the workplace, and you should support them to do this. This could include providing them with a separate room to work in, their own hand gel, their own facilities, staying 6 feet away from colleagues.
If the employee chooses to stay home to protect themselves in line with government advice but does not have symptoms or a family member with symptoms, and working from home is not possible, the practice may choose to pay the employee, but you don’t have to. The employee may take unpaid leave, or holiday. Of course as a supportive employer, you can consider their position and pay half pay/ full pay, or whatever the practice can afford, should you choose to. If the employee has symptoms and has to self-isolate in line with the government’s recommendations, they must receive at least SSP or company sick pay, whichever they are entitled to.
If you send the employee home as you are concerned for their health/ cannot create a safe environment for them to work in, this would be considered medical suspension and should be done on full pay.
What about pay for GP Partners?
GP Partners are business owners and are therefore not employees. The above rules such as social distancing and self-isolation with symptoms applies to all people in the UK - where there is a difference between the self-employed and employed is with pay.
Yesterday the Chancellor announced plans to support small businesses financially through this crisis and have directed SMEs to a helpline to support business owners with any questions, such as any financial support they may be able to claim – details can be found here
Further information can be found here
If an employee shows symptoms of Covid-19 or has a family member that does?
Employees showing symptoms or that have family members displaying symptoms should self-isolate for 14 days. Whilst absent from work, the employee should at the very least receive SSP from day one of their absence. If you offer company sick pay and the employee is eligible, ensure they receive this for the period of their absence, even if the employee is not displaying any symptoms themselves. Some practices are introducing new policies to support staff, such as all members that need to self-isolate receive full pay, or whatever the practice can afford.
What about pregnant employees?
Pregnant employees should be treated in the same way as the over 70s and other vulnerable groups. Carry out a risk assessment and decide if the environment can be made as safe as possible for the employee. If you believe the employee to be at risk, send them home on medical suspension (full pay). If the employee chooses not to come to work and cannot work from home, they can take unpaid leave, holiday or the practice can choose to pay them if they wish.
Advice currently suggests self-isolation for a 12-week period. Are we going to have to pay Sick pay/ SSP for this entire period?
The government needs to provide clearer guidelines for us to answer this with certainty/ we don’t know how long this situation is likely to last. We will update you as soon as there are any developments, but at this moment the current advice is to follow your company sick procedures, and pay SSP/Sick Pay for the foreseeable, whilst looking in to ways for employees to work from home. Such as buying a laptop to allow home working may work out more cost effective than paying an employee who is self-isolating.
Parents that must be at home to look after their children, how do we pay them?
There are a few options for parents. Working in a GP Practice, most employees will be “Key Workers” and have the option to continue sending their children to school. However there might be some employees that want to keep their children at home, or may fall just outside the “Key Worker” description. In this circumstance, you have a few options. The first is Time off for Dependants. This is a statutory leave entitlement but is only to be used in an emergency, cannot be used long term and is unpaid. Another option is Unpaid Leave, which can be as long as needed but is again unpaid. Parental Leave is an option for some practices too, though this can only be taken for 4 weeks in any 12 month period, again though, this is unpaid.
Further details may be found here
You can also access a Pandemic Flu Policy, Flu Pandemic Contingency Plan, Flu Pandemic Checklist and Flu Pandemic Practice Buddy Guide in our new Pandemic Flu Toolkit if you are an FPM member.