Should a policy triggering disciplinary action after a certain amount of absence be suspended in relation to employees with coronavirus symptoms during the outbreak?

Given the nature of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, it may be sensible for employers to reconsider their disciplinary policy in relation to sickness absence where employees are sick with symptoms suggesting a risk of coronavirus. If employees are concerned about disciplinary action, they may attend work when unwell or return to work before they are fully recovered. Not only are sick employees likely to perform poorly, but they also risk infecting other employees, which will result in increased staff absence.

In order to avoid these issues, employers may wish to advise employees that absence due to coronavirus symptoms will not be taken into account when determining whether or not to take disciplinary action. They should make clear that this is a temporary measure and update employees when they revert to the normal policy.