A shop worker at the Good Health Store in the Isle of Man was sacked for self-isolating at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but has now been awarded just over £7,000 by an Employment Tribunal.
Jackie Reid, a Type 1 diabetic, followed her GP’s advice to self-isolate as her condition made her more vulnerable to the virus. After speaking with her boss, Kirsten Bennett, regarding her concerns that she would be required to self-isolate for up to 12 weeks, following the Government’s advice, Mrs Reid then confirmed over the phone on the 20th March 2020 that her GP had advised her to only isolate for 14 days.
When contacting Ms Bennett on 31st March 2020 and offering to return to work immediately,
Mrs Reid reacted negatively and informed her that she was dismissing her.
After reaching out to the Manx Industrial Relations Service for advice, Mrs Ried asked Ms Bennet to explain her employment status and was told that the company considered her to have resigned. Ms Bennett questioned why she had wanted to isolate when there were no confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the island, but then wanted to return when this had risen to 49 cases.
This left Mrs Reid without a job and whilst she had not intended to go to an Employment Tribunal, her family and friends advised that she should. This is when she decided to make her unfair dismissal claim against Ms Bennett.
During the tribunal, Ms Bennett said that Mrs Reid had abandoned her job without notice, without regard to the other employees or to the business. She also argued that she could have sued Mrs Reid for breach of contract.
Eventually, the Employment Tribunal unanimously agreed that Mrs Reid was unfairly dismissed and suffered unlawful deductions from her pay. She was then awarded £7,161.
However, Ms Bennett, intends to appeal against the decision.
What all employees should know about self-isolating
Whilst the vast majority of vulnerable people who were advised by the Government to self-isolate/shield themselves were informed that they no longer needed to do so on 1st August 2020, there are still times when you will be unable to go to work and will need to self-isolate, such as;
- You have COVID-19
- You have symptoms of the virus
- Someone in your household has symptoms
- You have been told to do so by a medical professional
- You have been told to do so by a Government ‘track and trace’ service
When self-isolating for any of these reasons you must receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and your employer should arrange this for you.
Ideally, to prevent any confusion or disputes, you should tell your employer as soon as possible that you will be unable to come to work and how long you’re likely to be off for. You will also still need to follow your workplace’s usual sickness reporting process and if you are unaware what this is, ask your employer. It is also likely that whilst you can ‘self-certify’ for the first 7 days off work, you will require a note from a doctor or NHS 111 for any time thereafter.
It is important that as an employee you are aware that when needing to self-isolate/quarantine because you have been to another country, you are not entitled to SSP. Of course, if you are able to work from home then it is worthwhile speaking to your employer to try to come to an agreement in this regard. You may also want to ask your employer if you can take annual leave to cover the period of their self-isolation.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are being dismissed by your employer because you have to self-isolate, this may fall under the category of ‘unfair dismissal’, similarly to the case above. Ideally, you should seek assistance from an employment law specialist as soon as you can, you may be able to make an unfair dismissal claim.
Speaking to an employment law specialist
Here at Nationwide Employment Lawyers, we are employment law specialists and if you have any questions at all about self-isolation and your rights as an employee, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Of course, if you feel as though you have been unfairly dismissed because you’ve had to self-isolate then we will gladly assist you with this too. Our experienced team will gladly provide you with any additional information that you may require in relation to employment law during COVID-19.