Acas has published guidance on handling coronavirus at work to help employers and their staff understand their rights.
The guidance includes tips on how to handle sick pay, staff in quarantine and staff who do not want to come into work due to fears over catching the coronavirus. The advice also gives tips for employers if the virus spreads widely in the UK or if a business needs to shut temporarily.
A workplace’s normal sick pay policies apply if someone has coronavirus. But if someone is not sick and their employer tells them not to come into work then they should get their usual pay.
There’s no legal obligation for an employer to pay someone who is not sick but cannot work as they have been told by a medical expert to self-isolate or have had to go into quarantine. Acas’ advice, however, is that it’s good practice for an employer in this situation to treat it as sick leave and follow their usual sick leave policy or offer the employee the option to take the period as paid annual leave.
If an employee does not want to go into work due to concerns around catching coronavirus, then employers should listen to their concerns and offer reassurance. Options to consider could include flexible working arrangements such as homeworking and allowing them to take some time off as holiday or unpaid leave.
If coronavirus spreads more widely in the UK, Acas advice is that employers should:
• make sure staff contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
• make sure managers are clear on workplace processes such as sickness and absence policies
• implement NHS advice on hygiene such as encouraging everyone to wash their hands  regularly and ensuring there are clean places to wash hands with soap and water
• give out hand sanitisers and tissues to staff and encourage their use
Employers should also plan in case they need to close their workplace temporarily. Considerations should include:
• asking staff who have work laptops or mobile phones to take them home so that they can work there
• arranging paperwork tasks that can be done at home for staff who do not work on computers
• making sure staff have a way to communicate with their employer and work colleagues

For more advice and to obtain a FREE homeworking policy suitable for a range of purposes at this time just complete an Enquiry Form with your request and the Bulldog will whizz one over pronto!

In the recent case of Asda Stores Ltd v Raymond a tribunal made that point in finding that a diabetic lorry driver was unfairly dismissed after he was caught on CCTV urinating in a goods yard.

The driver said that, as a result of his condition, he had been caught short and had tried to find a discreet part of the yard in which to urinate. He expressed regret but was dismissed after the CCTV footage revealed what he had done. The manager who investigated the matter conceded that he had concluded that the driver was guilty of the act in question, but had gone no further.

In upholding the driver’s unfair dismissal claim, an Employment Tribunal (ET) found that the investigation of the incident was neither impartial nor fair. The inadequacy of the manager’s inquiries had not been cured by the subsequent disciplinary process and the employer, a supermarket chain, had not held a genuine and reasonable belief that the driver was guilty of the misconduct alleged. His disability discrimination claim also succeeded on the basis that he had told his employer of his disability, a recognised symptom of which was an uncontrollable urge to urinate. The ET directed the driver’s reinstatement in his former role.

In challenging the ET’s decision, the employer argued that the CCTV footage clearly showed the driver urinating on pallets used for the delivery of customers’ shopping. The ET’s failure to find as much led to fatally flawed reasoning throughout its ruling and a perverse conclusion. The ET was also said to have been guilty of substituting its own views of the driver’s misconduct for those of the employer.

In dismissing the appeal, however, the Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected the employer’s plea that the evidence that the driver had urinated on the pallets was incontrovertible. The ET’s finding that the operative cause of the act of urination was his disability was not challenged and there was simply no basis for the perversity and substitution mindset arguments. The ET’s conclusion that trust and confidence between the employer and the driver was capable of being restored, thus enabling his reinstatement, was also unimpeachable.

The moral of this case is to be careful if you are an employer by taking appropriate legal and tactical advice before dismissing someone, no matter how sure you think you are of your position to avoid the risk of being ‘caught short’ yourself and ending up on the wrong side of a tribunal result: when considering allegations of workplace gross misconduct, it is often not enough simply to establish that a forbidden act occurred, without going on to discern the reasons for it and whether those reasons are linked to a disability.

No doubt some will also be rejoicing at this victory for canine equality for humans i.e. for the right to go to the toilet outside!