The Coronavirus – what happens if I can’t go to work?

From Wuhan City in China came a virus of mass disruption – the Coronavirus (Covid 19).

**Please note there have been many changes since this article was written. For the most up to date information from the government go to

Since December last year, we’ve seen it on the news, we are taking precautions but the availability of hand sanitizer is very limited. Toilet rolls are flying off the shelves in supermarkets and people are starting to wear masks over their mouths or plastic bags over their heads!

Apart from the costs of such items, how much will the Coronavirus cost you?

Do you run a business, will you still be able to function with less manpower due to illness or are you self employed? Life is a bit unsure at the moment so the best thing to do is educate yourself so you know your options just in case you can’t go to work.

The British Government have predicted a potential one-fifth of the population in Great Britain will be off sick and Unison have predicted that two million workers will have no rights to statutory sick pay. The UK is densely populated so infection is likely to spread amongst businesses especially in areas such as London, Manchester or Birmingham. 

The unforgiving virus is predicted to have a significant effect on the global economy. This week we saw the airline company Flybe go into administration, one reason being the lack of bookings because of the highly contagious virus. MGM has even delayed the release of the latest James Bond movie knowing that moviegoers will be reluctant to sit in an airconditioned cinema within close proximity to each other. 

If you are a business owner you should have an action plan in place to deal with bacteria in the workplace. In the warmer weather, there may come a time when the air conditioning needs to be turned off to discourage airborne pathogens. What are your options? 

If you are an employee, it’s time to take your work contract out of the draw and have a read of the section for ‘sickness pay’. There will be terms and conditions and you must understand what you are entitled to. Are you on a zero-hour contract?

Are you self-employed and not been paying National Insurance? For some self-employed people who contract the virus and have to go into self-isolation for fourteen days, it will be a strain on their finances. Can you afford to not work for two weeks? 

There is, of course, a moral dilemma here…

The big question is, would you still go to work if you had contracted the virus because you need the money? Let’s hope it doesn’t come to a point where you have to make that decision. Talk to someone if you start to feel unwell, don’t presume because you have a sore throat or temperature that you have the Coronavirus.

Here are two helpful websites with all the relevant information including who to talk to if you are worried:

What to do if you think you have got the virus?

Should I self isolate and how should I do it?

It’s handy to know what might happen if you can’t go into work because of the virus. Here are some other key facts and advice that you should know whether you are an employee or employer. 

  • READ YOUR EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT to find out exactly what you are entitled to and how long for just in case you need time off for sickness 
  • People who travel on business abroad may not be entitled to sick pay if they get stuck in isolation and can’t return from the country for 14 days. If you have to travel on business clarify what will happen if you get stuck. Be clear because you don’t want to be paying for a hotel and losing your wages
  • A business can use discretion when it comes to sick pay, however, as an employer, you should treat everyone fairly or you could face a legal battle  
  • The government have said that people with the virus who qualify for statutory sick pay will get it from day one not day four which is what it normally is 
  • Statutory sick pay is £94.25 per week
  • You can take statutory sick pay for 28 weeks
  • If you don’t qualify for statutory sick pay you may qualify to claim employment support allowance. If you are under 25 you get £57.90, if you are over 25 you get £73.10. There may be certain circumstances that you can qualify for more 
  • If you’re self-employed and have insurance, you will need to make enquiries into how much you can claim for loss of earnings
  • If you refuse to go into work because of the virus and without good reason, there could be grounds for a disciplinary and you could lose your job – check your contract. Talk to your employer, make sure you are clear about your rights. Please don’t use this as an opportunity to take time off, remember, as soon as you say that you could have or have the virus it is going to cause disruption for a lot of people
  • If you need to care for someone with the virus and need time off, you will most probably have to use holiday or have unpaid leave unless you have a contract saying otherwise
  • Employers have a responsibility to resolve employees concerns about health and safety. They can offer more flexible working conditions like allowing employees to work from home if the job role allows that
  • An employee can speak to their union, ACAS or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau to know their rights
  • Employers should educate their staff about the virus and put posters up in the working environment to remind employees to take precautions like washing hands regularly. They should supply hand sanitizer, tissues, anti-bacterial hand wash and cleaning products to make sure desks, computers and phones are kept clean
  • To reduce anxieties about the chance of you not being able to work, read the UK government coronavirus action plan 
  • Common questions about the virus 

Having read the above, it’s important not to panic, there is plenty of advice to help you through tough times. 

If you are already in debt, this current situation might be a big concern, talk to us, we can help. 

Whatever the amount of money this virus of mass disruptions costs you, it’s important to stay on top of your finances. This could be an ideal opportunity to save money, for example:

  • Not booking a holiday where you need to fly to countries at high risk just in case the flight gets cancelled and you can’t get your money back
  • Not going to events where you would be in very close proximity to other people such as music concerts
  • Walk, don’t use the underground unless you have to
  • Think twice about going to busy restaurants

 Of course, we can’t hide in a bubble and life goes on, there is a risk factor involved in most things we do. At the moment all you can do is sensible living which means looking after yourself and those around you.

It’s important to remember that children may have serious concerns so you should educate them and talk to their school if you are worried. Limit their exposure to the news and do not let your child put a plastic bag over their head!

If you suspect you have symptoms of the virus and are still tempted to go to work just stop and take a minute to remember, you may be strong enough to deal with the illness but someone at work may have an elderly family member who wouldn’t be. 

Keep calm and wash your hands.

Helpful reading:

What can I do if I can’t pay my bills?

‘Can’t pay, we’ll take it away!’ is the popular TV program that gives an eye-opening account of those people who are unable to pay their debts, they are not alone. According to the National Audit Office (NAO), 8.3 million people in the UK are unable to pay off debts or household bills.

**If you are one of those people, don’t despair, there is help out there for you.**

In this article, we are going to look at that topic in a simplistic form to make it easy to understand. Debt can be daunting and confusing, we can help you understand your recovery options. The first most important step we recommend is to ‘Make contact’ – talk to relevant people, preferably authorised debt counsellors who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Read our article ‘Who can I speak to about debt’ to understand more. 


Some companies offer debt solutions who are not authorised and regulated. It takes only a few minutes to check – make time, save yourself more expense and headaches in the long run.

Read the article in full here.


Further reading:


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