Coronavirus: The possible impact to your staff

It’s impossible to ignore the current Coronavirus crisis. As the details of the scale, intensity, and scope of the outbreak continue to emerge, it’s becoming increasingly clear that even a best-case scenario outcome will have some significant impact on businesses.  

There are already thousands of articles out there about the various impacts, but for small and growing businesses perhaps the most immediate impact will be felt when team members are unable to make it into work. The UK government has been clear in its advice to those who feel they may be ill: self-isolate, stay away from work and other social gatherings and let the symptoms take their course.  

So if your staff are off sick, where does that leave you? Under current rules, statutory sick pay (SSP) is paid by employers, who have the right to know the reason their staff are giving for not being at work. They already have some discretion to accept different forms of evidence as proof of sickness.  

The UK government last week announced emergency legislation to ensure that those who are advised to self-isolate are able to claim for SSP sooner. Under the temporary rules, employees self isolating can claim SSP from the first day of absence, and not the fourth day as previously held.  

Explaining the rationale for the measure, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament: “We are not at the point yet where we are asking large numbers of people to self-isolate, but that may, of course, come if large numbers have the symptoms. If they stay at home, they are helping to protect all of us by preventing the spread of the virus. The change will be a temporary measure to respond to the outbreak and will lapse when it is no longer required. 

“No one should be penalised for doing the right thing.” 

There’s no doubt that the impacts of the coronavirus spread will be felt in all kinds of ways, some of which are entirely unexpected. But business interruption, supply chain disruption, workforce issues, and general economic uncertainty are almost inevitable. Tough times ahead for some, and that means good advice and support from advisers is even more crucial than ever.  

SSP comes under the UK HR law regime, and we can help clients understand their obligations. You can also contact us for help and support in a number of areas, from tax and payroll to accounting and banking