You’d have to have been living in a bubble to not have heard about Coronavirus making it’s way from Wuhan Province in China, all the way to mainland Europe.
While the risk to life remains low, it’s certainly the case that he British government is getting more and more worried, and is stepping up their efforts to prepare for mass infections and therefore casualties.
So if you’re one of the unlucky ones who happens to develop symptoms, or come into contact with someone who has the virus, how does this affect you?
Coronavirus and Employment
What we know so far about Coronavirus is that people are being asked to ‘self isolate’. In the case of being suspected, or at risk, of having contracted the virus – you may be advised to stay at home to avoid the virus spreading any further.
For self-employed people this is obviously a nightmare. Gig workers and sole traders cannot earn a living without going to work, which is further evidence as to why it’s so critical we introduce some sort of UBI basic income or sick pay for gig workers.
Anyhow, this is the situation.
There is also no obligation for employers to pay their employees if they have to take time off for anything other than sickness.
However, employers are being encouraged to do so, and treat ‘self isolation’ as if it were sickness and therefore work in partnership with government efforts to tackle the crisis.
I’ve heard the phrase ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ make an appearance a few times this week, but that’s really how it needs to be.
Employers, employees and workers need to work in harmony with each other in order to ensure he virus is contained and ultimately, eliminated. It’s a war effort of sorts.
We’ve already seen in the news this week that Greggs have confirmed they will pay their staff in full for any absence. This has generated an enormous amount of goodwill on social media, with Gregg’s showing once again their good moral standards when it comes to workers’ rights and conditions.
So what should I do?
At the moment, nothing. You’re probably not going to get it and hopefully it will all blow over.
But the advice I’ve been given from my employer and trade union is follow government advice. When they say wash your hands for over a minute, do it. If you need to self isolate, do it.
Hopefully your employer will see sense and allow you to take the time off paid. State your case. Explain that you need to take time off, but you need paying because you’ve got a mortgage and children to support.
And if they do agree, make sure you record everything. Get in writing from them that your absence is authorised, and don’t let them wriggle out of it.
If you’re self employed, obviously the situation is more tricky. I would advise using common sense.
There is little risk in continuing to work at the moment, but can you work from home? Can you avoid public transport? Can you work less frequently while the situation passes?
But ultimately, life must continue. Keep calm and carry on is the ultimate Britishism or, as I heard a chap say last night, “Keep calm and Wash Your Hands”