Can an employer require an employee who is concerned about the risk of contracting swine flu to attend work?

As a general rule, an employer can require employees concerned about contracting swine flu to attend work. The fear of contracting an illness is not sufficient reason for failing to attend work, and an employer faced with an employee refusing to come to work will be entitled to take disciplinary action for unauthorised absence. An employer could also stop paying an employee who refuses to attend work on the basis that the employee is failing to perform his or her part of the contract. The position is no different where the employee in question is likely to be exposed to cases of swine flu, for example in front-line health or social care roles.

However, where business needs allow, an employer may wish to take a more flexible approach and allow employees to take periods of annual or unpaid leave, or to work from home. This is particularly advisable when the employer is dealing with vulnerable employees, ie those at high risk of developing flu-related complications, including pregnant employees and employees with respiratory problems or poor immune systems.