Monkeypox- another Covid??
Released On 30th May 2022
Employment Law Update
Monkeypox - another Covid?
Whilst we are still adapting to life with Covid, you have probably heard in the news about a new virus which has emerged in the UK called moneypox. The virus can be spread through close physical contact. At this stage, the number of cases is relatively low and it is understood that most people experience mild symptoms. The symptoms can include: a rash, swollen glands, high temperature, aches, back pain and exhaustion. The more severe cases tend to impact people who are immunosuppressed, young children and pregnant women. For now, this is the information we hold, but as we experienced with Covid over time more information may come to light on the impact of this new virus.
So this is another Covid? Probably not... However, there are some common issues to consider in the workplace:
The UK Health Security Agency currently advises that those with monkeypox or those who have had close direct contact with a confirmed case should isolate for 21 days at home and avoid contact with people more vulnerable to a serious case of the virus. As we discussed in a previous update, many roles are now successfully set up for remote work. This means that where an individual is well enough to work, working from home could be a solution during the isolation period and minimise the operational impact. However, where there is not the case (e.g. the individual is not well enough to work or their role can't be carried out from home), the position on pay will need to be considered ( as discussed below).
Whilst monkeypox is understood to not be as contagious as Covid, it is still categorised as contagious. In light of this, employers will need to decide whether they will require people to stay away from the workplace for 21 days if they have been in close contact with a confirmed case of monkeypox. Again, the position on pay on this situation will need to be decided. However, as with Covid, self-isolation could have a substantial operational impact on business where roles cannot be carried out remotely.
In respect to confirmed cases, if a staff member is not well enough to work during the isolation period, statutory sick pay will be payable in the usual way (subject to eligibility). However, where an employer requires a close contact to stay away from the workplace for 21 days (and they can't carry out their role remotely), if they do not pay full pay in this scenario, this could result in claims for unlawful deductions from wages.
- Infection Control
As usual, employers need to continue their duty to provide a safe working environment. It is important that employers carry out risk assessments and review their infection control measures to specifically cover monkeypox and keep this under review. Similarly to Covid, examples of steps include: handwashing with soap and water/alcohol-based hand sanitiser, protective equipment and isolation. Specific consideration should also be given to measures in respect of vulnerable people in the workplace.
Next steps: we recommend that employers take steps now to ensure they keep up to date with the government's guidance, carry out a risk assessment and decide their policy on monkeypox.
Please let the employmenbt team know if there is anything we can assist with you.