HR Expert: Monkeypox
A number of clients have contacted me, worried about monkeypox. They are concerned that this is going to go the same way as covid, and are wondering what they need to do with regards to their employees?

Firstly, medical experts and the government have said that this is highly unlikely to be the new covid. Monkeypox is not easily spread, unlike covid, and a vaccine is already available for it, which means there is a very low chance of this spreading throughout the population.

However, it is an unpleasant infection akin to chicken pox and your clients should consider what they can do to manage their workforce with this in mind. Measures that can be put in place to avoid monkeypox include:

  • Regular hand washing with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • Only eat meat that has been cooked thoroughly.
  • Avoiding wild or stray animals, including dead animals and those that appear unwell.
  • No longer sharing bedding or towels with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox.
  • Stopping close contact with people who are unwell and may have monkeypox.

Should one of your clients’ employees get monkeypox, they are likely to be too unwell to work, and so normal sickness procedures should be followed. They may, subject to normal eligibility criteria, may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. Or, where a contractual entitlement to enhanced sick pay applies, they should be paid this rate.

It is beneficial to conduct a welfare meeting with the employee to better understand how they are feeling, as well as any support measures which would be of benefit to them. They should be informed to avoid contact with other people until their lesions have healed and the scabs have dried off. When they are well enough to resume working, a return-to-work meeting should be completed.

Isolation is advised by the government for those who have monkeypox, those who have been in direct unprotected contact (such as a sharps injury from a used needle or changing an infected persons towels or bedding without PPE or high-risk environmental contact with a confirmed case, and those who have had unprotected exposure to infected materials (such as sharing a car or standing close to a confirmed case without PPE). Should one of your clients’ employees be contacted to say they are a close contact, they should be encouraged to follow this advice.

If your client tells their employee to isolate and not attend work, they may have to pay them in full. This is the case if there is a contractual clause to do so, if they are working from home, or if they are well enough to work but are prevented from doing so.

Allowing an infected (or possibly infected) employee into the workplace could cause the infection to spread. Should your clients allow this knowingly, they would be in breach of their duty of care towards their employees and may be subjected to legal action. As such, whilst isolation is not a legal requirement, it should be strongly considered.


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