Since the coronavirus—a large family of viruses that can cause respiratory infections and can be fatal—was first reported in December in Wuhan, China, the virus has spread to Europe, with the latest confirmed cases reported in Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, and Italy. And, the UK.
The news may naturally have you concerned about your own health—and even your job, if you need to self-isolate after travel or are afraid of getting ill.
Here, we answer some of your top coronavirus concerns.
Where Has The Coronavirus Been Reported?
The coronavirus has been confirmed in more than 30 countries, including: Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, China, Croatia, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Nepal, Oman, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.
I’ve Traveled to One of Those Regions. What Do I Do?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), your risk of getting the coronavirus is low—even if you’ve traveled to an affected region. “The risk of infection is higher in areas where a number people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 [coronavirus],” according to the WHO’s website. With more than 95 percent of cases occurring in China—specifically, the Hubei Province—you shouldn’t wrack yourself with worry unless you’ve traveled there. “For people in most other parts of the world, your risk of getting COVID-19 is currently low,” WHO writes. “However, it’s important to be aware of the situation and preparedness efforts in your area.”
That said, you may want to let your boss know if you’ve traveled to an affected region. While there’s no law in place that gives you the right to work from home if you’re not actually ill, he or she may want to give you a remote-work option for your own peace of mind and the safety of other employees. (Working from home is considered “self-isolation” and is taken as a precaution. As of this week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has asked Britons who’ve visited these regions to self-isolate, even if they’re not experiencing any symptoms of the coronavirus.)
If I Stay Home From Work And I’m Not Sick, Will I Still Get Paid?
Just like there’s no law in place that says employers have to let you work from home, there’s also no law in place that makes sure you get paid if you choose to stay home—without an employer’s OK. Of course, it’s good practice for an employer to work out a work-from-home arrangement, or to treat the time off as sick time—but there’s no law that requires them to do so, experts say. However, businesses will be on high alert at this time and won’t want to cause unnecessary stress or disruption. So, if you’re concerned about being in the office and would rather work from home – tell your boss and come to a mutually acceptable agreement which won’t affect how you get paid.
I Am Sick. What Do I Do?
The most common symptoms of coronavirus are fever, tiredness, and dry cough, according to WHO. Additional symptoms may include aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or diarrhea. While most people—about 80 percent, WHO says—recover from coronavirus without any special treatment, it’s smart to see your GP if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms. If you’re older or have an underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart problems, then you should definitely see your doctor, WHO recommends.
If you’re ill, let your employer know. Employers will continue to pay you your usual wage for as long as its own sickness policy states. After this time, you should be eligible for sick pay, or statutory sick pay (SSP), which is £94.25 per week and can be paid for up to 28 weeks. You may need a doctor’s note in order to qualify for it.
That said, many employers won’t have dealt with a global health issue like coronavirus before and will want to minimise any disruption and distress. More and more businesses are turning to remote working as a solution to the virus spreading, so you may not need to take any sick leave at all.
For more information, keep an eye on the Acas website with recommendations on how employers should be dealing with coronavirus at work.