The Telegraph’s legal expert, Solicitor Advocate Frank Maguire of Thompsons Solicitors is an expert at winning compensation for clients in personal injury cases. This week he highlights the issue of swine flu.
Last week saw the closure of Ravenscraig Primary School in Greenock due to confirmed cases of Swine Flu among pupils.
This was followed by a number of other suspected cases in the Greenock area and speculation over many more locals with flu like symptoms.
In this time of panic, it is understandable for workers and parents to be concerned that they or their loved ones may be coming into contact with a potentially deadly virus while at work, at the GP or at school.
However, under the Employment Rights Act 1996, ‘fear’ of contracting illness is not sufficient for an employee to miss work, unless it is reasonable for the employee to believe they are in “serious and imminent danger”.
Employees who are unwilling to work because they fear being infected could be dismissed fairly for misconduct, provided the employer has taken reasonable steps to ensure the workplace is safe. Employees may claim unfair dismissal if they believed, with reason, that they would be exposed to “serious or imminent danger” by working. In most circumstances this will be hard to prove.
Although the law imposes a duty of care on employers to protect their employees’ health and safety, this does not extend to providing drugs or face masks during a flu outbreak.
To keep their ‘noses clean’ employers must ensure they behave consistently. Failing to protect some staff while protecting others may constitute less favourable treatment which could render an employer liable for unlawful discrimination.
If, for any reason, your child or another dependant member of your family falls ill, the law does entitle employees to take time off to take care of them, if that time off is in reasonable proportion to the illness.