This is an interesting article about whether it is appropriate for an employee to call in sick when they have a common cold. It raises interesting angles, from spreading germs to colleagues to colds possibly being good for boosting the immune system.
From an employment law perspective, there are a number of considerations:
- Check out the sick leave rules at your workplace. Normally an employee is expected to self-certify their sickness for the first 7 days of absence. This essentially leaves it to the employee's own discretion to evaluate whether they are too sick to attend work. After this time, the employee is usually required to obtain a note from their doctor.
- In some sectors, attending work with a simple cold will be an absolute no-no (for example, if the employee works in a hospice with sick and vulnerable individuals). It is sensible for employers with this type of work environment to issue clear guidance about their sickness rules.
- Unless the employer offers a more generous scheme, the first three days of sick leave will be unpaid. Thereafter, the employee will be entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), assuming they have met the qualifying conditions. SSP is usually far less than the employee's actual pay - currently it is £92.05 per week.
- If the employer reasonably believes that the employee has falsely taken sick leave, this will likely be a disciplinary issue. The employee should be invited to a meeting to explain their side of the story before any decision is made.
- The reality is that a lot of roles can be performed remotely these days so if this is an option, a pragmatic solution may be to work from home for a day or two until the cold passes. Obviously if this is not the usual practice, the employer and employee will need to agree to such an arrangement.
Given the coldest months are upon us, someone in your workplace will inevitably have cold at some point so bear in the mind the above the next time you hear an achoo.
"For goodness sake, just go home," my boss implored. "People are complaining and don't want to catch your disgusting germs!" My protests of "it's just a cold - I don't feel that bad" fell on deaf ears and I had to admit defeat gracefully rather than being frogmarched out of the newsroom. While I wasn't feeling 100%, in my mind I certainly wasn't poorly enough to justify spending an afternoon under a duvet. But forget Brexit - nothing seemed to divide my friends, colleagues and random social media posters more than the thorny question of whether you should call in sick with the sniffles. Opinions varied from "oh, for heaven's sake, just grow a pair" via "ooh, that's a really tricky one..." to "how very dare you infect your poor colleagues, you selfish..."