Can Employers Make Employees Stay at Home Who Have Just Returned From an Affected Area?Posted in : First Tuesday Q&A NI on 3 March 2020
Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their workforce. Therefore, it is understandable that employers are concerned about employees returning to the workplace after they have visited an affected area. If employers knowingly permit employees who have been advised to self-isolate to come into work, they could be in breach of their health and safety duties, especially to other high-risk employees such as those with underlying respiratory conditions or those who are pregnant.
Employers should check their policies and contracts to see if there are any provisions that lawfully enable them to require employees to stay at home. If employees who are deemed to carry a genuine risk refuses to stay at home, employers may wish to consider precautionary suspension. However, employers will have to check if the right to suspend is contained within a policy or the employee's contract. Even where there is a contractual right to suspend, any suspension should be for no longer than necessary.
If employers are making employees stay at home, generally the employees should be paid as normal, unless there is a contractual provision to the contrary or they are declared unfit for work and will instead receive sick pay.
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