Covid absence – the cost to employers

Employers across the country have encountered issues with staffing levels due to self-isolation and Covid absences and are trying to counter the cost of this.

Employers are under no obligation to maintain full pay for periods of self-isolation (unless contracts provide this) and only have to pay SSP.

However, if businesses have chosen to pay full pay for periods of isolation over the past 18 months to two years, this may have become an implied contractual term even though it’s not written into employment contracts. This means that employers must go through the same consultation processes they are obliged to do for any other change to terms and conditions. Failure to do so may lead to lengthy and costly claims of unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal, breach of contract and a risk of discrimination claims.

Organisations may therefore need to consider amending existing policies and procedures relating to contractual sick pay entitlements and eligibility requirements for Covid-related absences. In particular, employers may want to update the evidence required for those who test positive for Covid, especially because a confirmatory PCR test is no longer needed for asymptomatic individuals.

Similarly, employers are experiencing difficulty in determining which of their employees are vaccinated or exempt. Whilst some employees will be wiling to divulge this information, not all will wish to and this may increase the likelihood of absence for unvaccinated employees.  If the employer is privy to this information, it must be stored in line with normal data protection rules and treated as sensitive data.

121 HR Solutions has provided guidance across a range of Covid queries for the past two years and continues to support clients in this, and any other area of employment practice!

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