Equal Opportunities Commission


Press Releases

Press Releases

EOC Advice for Employers


The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has received a number of enquiries relating to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the duties and obligations of employers.

"Clearly it is discriminatory if an employer dismisses or subjects to detriment an employee who has (or might have) SARS, or who has a family member or associate who has (or might have) SARS", said Ms. Alexandra Papadopoulos, the EOC's Legal Adviser. "However," she added, "it is not unlawful for an employer to take action if the employee refuses to take precautions or refuses to comply with the quarantine measures, where such act is reasonably necessary to protect public health."

"We must also look at what is appropriate behaviour on the part of a reasonable employer", said Ms. Papadopoulos. "Preventing staff from wearing masks because they don't suit the company's image, or preventing or discouraging employees from taking time off in certain circumstances will amount to unlawful discrimination. Certainly the employer could incur liability under the anti-discrimination laws but, more importantly, such irresponsible behaviour could lead to SARS being spread to other staff and cause further impact on public safety."

The EOC is asking employers to show flexibility when it comes to giving paid leave to employees who have or might have SARS, or who have family members or associates who have or might have SARS. "This makes economic sense in the long run", commented Ms. Papadopoulos, "and should avoid any liability on the part of the employer under the anti-discrimination and work place safety laws."

Enquiry: EOC Hotline        25118211