Our next #AskTheSolicitor features a hugely relevant topic, COVID-19.
Q: “I was put in a conflicting position by my employer where I had to attend a meeting with a person who had suspected COVID-19. I voiced my concerns but was told that the meeting had to go ahead and I was the only one who was available to attend.
Subsequently, the person I had the meeting with has been confirmed as a positive case of COVID-19 and I am now in self- isolation for 14 days. This has had a knock-on impact on many factors of my life and I feel quite bitter that I was made to go to the meeting and the business was given precedent over my health and well-being.
Is there anything I can do or am I entitled to compensation from my employers?”
A: Your employer should not have put you in this difficult and potentially dangerous position. There are a number of remedies open to you:
- Your employer is legally responsible for your health and safety.He must take all reasonable measures to protect you. It is difficult to understand why the meeting could not have been postponed pending the results of the COVID-19 test – they normally only take between 1-2 days. Even if there was a good reason for the meeting to go ahead, it could have been held remotely using video conferencing or indeed why protective measures such as social distancing could have applied. There certainly seems no good reason why you should have been exposed to such a serious risk.
Your employer is in breach of his duty of care to you and you do have a right to pursue an action against him for any loss sustained. Precisely what that loss is depends on whether you contract COVID-19. If you do, and you can show that it is more likely than not you caught it from your infected work colleague at this meeting, you will be entitled to compensation for all pain, suffering and wage loss arising from your COVID-19 infection.
If you do not develop COVID-19, but suffer a significant mental impairment such as clinical anxiety neurosis or depression due to the fear of contracting COVID-19, you may also have an action against your employer. If you only suffer wage loss due to the 14-day isolation period, you will certainly have an action against your employer to recover any such loss.
- If you have a written contract of employment, it is likely that there will be a term in the contract to the effect that the employer undertakes to take all reasonable steps to protect your health and safely whilst at work. Even if you have no such contract, courts imply a duty of trust and confidence into your work relationship with your employer. In this instance, your employer’s conduct is likely to be a fundamental breach of this implied term and may entitle you to bring an action for constructive dismissal against him. Constructive dismissal is a complex area of law and you should take no action of any sort until you first seek advice from an experienced employment lawyer.
Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice should be sought to address specific circumstances.