Workers should use coronavirus self-isolation as sick days, says Government

A woman wearing a face mask on the London Underground (Picture: Getty)

Staff who are asked to self-isolate because of coronavirus are entitled to take sick leave, the Government has said.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Commons medical advice on self-isolation stated it should be considered “sickness for employment purposes”.

He said: “It’s a very important message for employers and for those who can go home and self-isolate as if they were sick because it’s for medical reasons.”

It comes as staff around the country are being told to work from home, travel bans have been put in place and workplace policies are being checked or drawn up.

Read more: UK schools close as coronavirus panic spreads across Europe

Conciliation service Acas has also published new advice to help firms and their staff understand their rights.

A workplace’s normal sick pay policies apply if someone has coronavirus, said Acas, but if someone is told not to come into work, for example, if they have returned from China, they should get their usual pay, it was recommended.

Acas Chief Executive Susan Clews said: “Our new advice aims to help them handle the impact of coronavirus at work.

“It includes guidance around sick leave, staff in quarantine and considerations for businesses in case they need to temporarily shut down.”

The infection continues to spread across Europe amid fears of a global pandemic (Picture: PA)

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union had raised concerns at the lack of “clear and consistent advice” following an incident at Leeds railway station on Tuesday.

In a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, RMT general secretary Mick Cash added:  “It is imperative that clear and consistent advice is provided by the Department for Transport as a matter of urgency given that our members are dealing with the health and wellbeing, not only of themselves but the travelling public.”

A TUC spokesman said: “We strongly advise workers to follow the advice from Public Health England. Entitlement to sick pay will depend on your income and whether you are self-employed.

“Employers have a duty of care to ensure staff are able to take up health advice.”

Read more: In numbers: How coronavirus has spread around the world

A woman wears a mask while crossing London Bridge (Picture: Getty)

As of Wednesday, a total of 7,132 people have been tested for coronavirus in the UK.

Of these, 13 have tested positive, eight of whom have since been discharged from hospital.

The total number of cases of coronavirus in China is around 77,150, while the death toll is approximately 2,592.

Outside mainland China, the outbreak has spread to some 29 countries and territories, with a death toll of around two dozen.

Read more: Fewer Britons now think coronavirus is a 'major threat'