Covid and self isolating
Employers across the country are being encouraged to accommodate the need for employees to self-isolate when required to do so because of Covid. According to widespread reports over Christmas, however, this message did not reach a newsagent in Lincolnshire who sacked a 15 year old paperboy for missing work after being told to self-isolate by his school. The boy’s father is reported to be considering legal action, but may face some difficulty. It does seem that the boy in question has been doing the job for around two years – so it is possible that he has sufficient length of service to claim unfair dismissal. But it is not entirely clear that a 15-year-old, still legally regarded as a child, has the capacity to enter into a contract of employment in the usual sense.
The law is unclear. In 2003 a 15-year-old paperboy was held not to be a worker for the purposes of the Working Time Regulations in the EAT case of Addison v Ashby. But that case turned on the fact that the working time of children was dealt with by the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 and there was no appeal from the Tribunal’s finding that the boy in question had been unfairly dismissed. The issue remains open – possibly because the rather modest pay of children delivering newspapers makes a lengthy legal battle uneconomic. Still, the boy’s father in this case does seem very annoyed. On balance, the newsagent might be better off reconsidering their decision.