Zika – what are employers obligations?

Sarah Henchoz

Bird flu, SARs, Ebola and now the Zika virus – all terrible diseases with far-reaching consequences for those affected by them. But how does the latest outbreak of the Zika virus affect you as an employer? Clearly, you owe duties of care to your employees, which include not putting them in a situation that could result in detriment to health and safety.

Zika – FAQs

What do you do if an employee refuses to travel to an area affected by the disease? What if their reason for not travelling is because they are worried about passing it on to their pregnant (or hoping to become pregnant) partner? Should you allow people who have travelled to affected areas back into the workplace where they could pass the disease (if they are carrying it) on to colleagues?

As always, it is a question of common sense, but here are some things to think about:

  • Is business travel to an affected area necessary?
  • Should you recall anyone who is currently in an affected area?zika
  • Can the work be undertaken remotely/delayed until the recent outbreak is controlled?
  • If the specific employee is someone considered to be “high risk”, can someone else be sent in their place?
  • If the employee has recently returned from visiting an affected area (whether on business or for holiday), do you want to impose mandatory testing before you will let them return to work? Can they work from home in the meantime?
  • Does your insurance cover you in the event of claims?

If travel to or from affected areas is still considered necessary and, of course, safe, you should ensure that your employees are fully informed of the risks associated with this disease and how they can seek to protect themselves from contracting it. They should also be advised of what symptoms to look out for upon their return. Advice on this can be obtained from the World Health Organisation or from the company doctor.

For further information on sending workers abroad into high risk areas, read our guidance note.

Comments published on Employment Talk do not necessarily reflect the views of Allen & Overy.

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