During a flu pandemic or an infectious disease outbreak such as the coronavirus (COVID-19), can an employer insist that someone with flu symptoms comes to work?

An employer will be in breach of its common law and statutory duties to ensure the health and safety of its employees and to provide a safe place and system of work by insisting that an employee with flu symptoms attend the workplace. Additionally, such action is likely to breach the implied term of trust and confidence between the parties, as the employer could jeopardise the health of the employee in question, and of its entire workforce, given the contagious nature of flu and the coronavirus (COVID-19).

If the employee has symptoms that are consistent with flu or the coronavirus, the employer should advise them not to return to work until the symptoms have cleared and they feel well enough to return. Employees should also be advised to follow advice from the relevant public health body about how to obtain an initial assessment of their symptoms and further advice.