News

Stephen Morrall comments on what COVID rules means for workers and employers in Mail Online, This is Money, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail and MSN Money

  • February 11, 2022
  • By Stephen Morrall, Partner

Stephen Morrall’s comments were published in the Mail Online on 11 February 2022 and can be found here. Stephen’s comments were also featured in additional articles published on 21 February 2022 in This is Money, the Mail on Sunday, the Daily Mail and MSN Money

The axing of the legal requirement to self-isolate leaves businesses and staff in a difficult situation. 

Whereas before they simply had to follow rules set by ministers, now it is up to individual bosses – in consultation with staff – to decide their own policies… setting up a legal and HR minefield for both. 

Partner Stephen Morrall commented:

What can I do if they insist on coming in? Can I force them to go home? 

A number of different legal considerations apply here. If you have Covid and you are suffering from symptoms, a good employer would ask you not to come into the office.

They must have regard to the health and safety of the individual and their other staff. You can’t force somebody not to come in through the door, but if an employee insisted on doing so, the employer would need to decide whether it was reasonable in the circumstances to instruct the employee to return home.

If the employee refused to comply with a reasonable instruction, this could become a disciplinary issue which could ultimately lead to dismissal. In reality, this sort of situation is self-regulating as most employees will not want to work if they are sick.

What can I do if a colleague has it? 

If two secretaries came in and one was ill, the other one would not have the authority to ask her to go home, but she could ring up HR and then they would make a decision.

If the outcome was to ask the sick employee to go home that is likely to be considered a reasonable request.

Do businesses still need to test people or ask them to wear masks?

The government’s policy is to remove the legal restrictions and persuade people to act sensibly. They want it to be self-regulating, which is a very English approach.

In England the law doesn’t prescribe things unless they are necessary, and things are done by consensus.

So once all further restrictions are removed, I will recommend people at my firm take tests periodically during the week. But it will be down to each company, and their employees, to decide for themselves.

Can a vulnerable colleague sue if they get Covid off an infected person?

It’s unlikely. First of all it would be virtually impossible to prove how you’ve caught Covid, because if you go out of your house and come within a metre of someone you could have caught it from anybody.

If they come into work they are taking a conscious risk. It’s not like falling off a ladder – which would be a workplace injury.

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