Coronavirus is giving rise to a variety challenging employee relations issues.
Whilst each case will need to be dealt with on its own merits, there are some common approaches that employers may wish to adopt as a framework to help make decisions when issues of a similar nature arise.
We have put together a short scenario where we focus on the case of the Bill.
Bill is not sick. Bill is not at high risk and his employer is satisfied that any risk can be effectively managed. Bill insists that it is not safe to attend work.
Within the last two to three years Bill was diagnosed with cancer; he had a significant period of time away from work. The company supported Bill by maintaining company sick pay throughout, making Occupational Health advice and facilities available and keeping in regular contact.
With treatment, Bill was given the all clear about a year ago. Bill returned to work and the company accommodated him on a phased return. For the last year Bill has remained in work, albeit that his manager has continued to accommodate him by providing him with the lightest role available in the work area.
In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak the company referred Bill to Occupational Health to assess whether the extent to which Bill was at risk would enable him to remain in work. Occupational Health advised that so long as the company followed Government guidance on social distancing then Bill was not at increased risk and did not fall into the class of people that the Government had designated as being at high risk.
The manager responded to Occupational Health by giving a detailed explanation of what measures had been put in place for Bill since the outbreak of the virus. Occupational Health confirmed that the measures were reasonable to manage the risk.
This week Bill left work early, despite knowing that he had a one to one meeting scheduled with his manager. When the manager sent a message to Bill to ask why he did not attend the one to one, Bill messaged back and said “I have to leave work early because I need to reduce the risk to my health because of the virus. You don’t understand how worrying things are for me. I think it best that I stay at home until all of this is over, so I won’t be coming back for now”.
What are the issues arising from Bill’s email? The full case study can be found here, on our Coronavirus Advice Hub.