Lovely New Yorker cover today!Note that it also blew the top of his top hat off.
A lawyer (who shall remain anonymous) from a reputable firm writes:
Q: As an employer, can I refuse to pay the salary of an employee who is ‘self-isolating’?
A:If an employee has contracted the virus, the normal rules around sick pay will apply and they will either receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or contractual sick pay. If you have specifically told the employee not to come into the workplace as they have been to an affected area, they would ordinarily get their normal pay.
What is unclear is if the employee remains off as they have been quarantined or recommended to isolate themselves. In those circumstances, it would not strictly be considered as sick as the reason for the absence isn’t down to the employee being unwell, therefore no entitlement to sick pay.
There may be a contractual clause relating to such circumstances and how this time off should be paid. In the absence of any contractual clause, the position will be that the leave will be unpaid (or the employee can request to use their annual leave entitlement to cover the absence).
Q: For an employer, what are the implications of the coronavirus?
A:Whilst the above applies, if an employee is quarantined and their time off would be considered as unpaid, it may be worthwhile for you to consider the absence as sick leave and comply with any sick pay requirements. If this is not done and the employee attempts to come to work, this imposes the risk of spreading the virus. As an employer, you have a duty of care towards all staff to provide a safe premise of work. If an employee is adamant they wish to return to work, you may decide to suspend the employee on health and safety grounds, in this instance, they would have to be paid as normal.
You should ensure that employees are updated with potential symptoms of the virus and affected areas so they can be vigilant. You should seek guidance on what can be done to minimise the risk of spreading the virus and provide guidance to staff on what they can also do e.g. provide tissues and hand sanitisers and encourage staff to use them. In certain circumstances, you should consider whether staff can work from home if they have the resources and capabilities available to do so. You must need to ensure that you are taking a consistent approach with all your staff and ensure no one is being singled out because of their race or ethnicity.
For the avoidance of doubt: this does not constitute legal advice, just a lawyer’s perspective. I just thought it might be useful because it highlights the realities of that glib phrase ‘self-isolation’. There are, of course, other interesting questions that arise. For example, how would a family living in a rural location get supplies of food and other necessities? Tesco Direct?
Tyler Cowen has an interesting Bloomberg column about this. In part, he observes,
Supply chains are not indestructible. If the new costs or risks are high enough, the entire structure will be dismantled. By their nature, supply chains do not fall apart slowly, because each part of the chain relies upon other parts to add its value. It does not help much to have the circuit components of the iPhone lined up, for instance, if you cannot also produce the glass screens. In this way, these supply chains are less robust under extreme conditions.
Global supply chains have yet to come apart mostly because trade and prosperity generally have been rising. But now, for the first time since World War II, the global economy faces the possibility of a true decoupling of many trade connections.
I think he’s right. Complex supply chains will not degrade gracefully. One link will fail and then the whole chain will rapidly disintegrate.
Funny how we’ve built an entire civilisation on just-in-time delivery. (The famous Toyota ‘lean machine’.)
A study by Mela and Whitsworth in the American Journal of Infection Control found that fist bumps transferred one-quarter as much bacteria as a moderate handshake and even less compared to a strong handshake. Fist bumps are better because of lower contact times and lower contact area.
So now you know.
HT to Alex Tabarrok
Last September there was a terrific conference in King’s College, Cambridge to celebrate the centenary of the publication of John Maynard Keynes’s famous pamphlet, The Economic Consequences of the Peace. In a mischievous spirit in the months before the event, I tried to persuade a well-known economist of my acquaintance to compose another pamphlet, The Economic Consequences of George Osborne, that we could unveil on the weekend before the Keynes conference.
Osborne, as most people know, was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Coalition and Tory governments led by David Cameron following the 2010 general election. In that role he was the prime architect of the ‘austerity’ policy of slashing public expenditure (and therefore welfare benefits) using the preposterous rationale that somehow the public deficit brought about by rescuing the banks was due to extravagant spending by a Labour administration living beyond the country’s means. In fact, working on the principle that one should never let a good crisis go to waste, Osborne used this rationale as a cover for what he always had been seeking to do, namely to shrink the state in best Hayekian style.
Sadly, my tame expert was unable to help with the pamphlet, having been unexpectedly headhunted for a demanding role which left him little time for entertaining pursuits. So the booklet remained unwritten — until now.
But it has just surfaced under a different title and with a different set of authors. It’s Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, written by a team led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot. Although the authors are much too polite and reserved to put it like this, the report shows that the consequences of George Osborne are as numerous and bleak as I had supposed. British subjects can expect to spend more of their lives in poor health, for example. Improvements to life expectancy have stalled, and declined for the poorest 10% of women. The health gap has grown between wealthy and deprived areas. And place really matters – living in a deprived area of the North East is worse for your health than living in a similarly deprived area in London, to the extent that life expectancy is nearly five years less.
In more detail, the research underpinning the report says:
- Since 2010 life expectancy in England has stalled; this has not happened since at least 1900. If health has stopped improving it is a sign that society has stopped improving. When a society is flourishing health tends to flourish.
- The health of the population is not just a matter of how well the health service is funded and functions, important as that is. Health is closely linked to the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and inequities in power, money and resources – the social determinants of health.
- The slowdown in life expectancy increase cannot for the most part be attributed to severe winters. More than 80 percent of the slowdown, between 2011 and 2019, results from influences other than winter-associated mortality.
- Life expectancy follows the social gradient – the more deprived the area the shorter the life expectancy. This gradient has become steeper; inequalities in life expectancy have increased. Among women in the most deprived 10 percent of areas, life expectancy fell between 2010-12 and 2016-18.
- There are marked regional differences in life expectancy, particularly among people living in more deprived areas. Differences both within and between regions have tended to increase. For both men and women, the largest decreases in life expectancy were seen in the most deprived 10 percent of neighbourhoods in the North East and the largest increases in the least deprived 10 percent of neighbourhoods in London.
- There has been no sign of a decrease in mortality for people under 50. In fact, mortality rates have increased for people aged 45-49. It is likely that social and economic conditions have undermined health at these ages.
- The gradient in healthy life expectancy is steeper than that of life expectancy. It means that people in more deprived areas spend more of their shorter lives in ill-health than those in less deprived areas.
- The amount of time people spend in poor health has increased across England since 2010. As we reported in 2010, inequalities in poor health harm individuals, families, communities and are expensive to the public purse. They are also unnecessary and can be reduced with the right policies.
- Large funding cuts have affected the social determinants across the whole of England, but deprived areas and areas outside London and the South East experienced larger cuts; their capacity to improve social determinants of health has been undermined.
I could go on, but you will get the point.
Since being unceremoniously sacked by Theresa May, Osborne has led an exceedingly comfortable life, topping up the income from his family Trust Fund with a lavish salary as Editor of the London Evening Standard and £650,000 for working one day a week for the investment fund Blackwater.
From The Atlantic:
Coronaviruses are similar to influenza viruses in that they are both single strands of RNA. Four coronaviruses commonly infect humans, causing colds. These are believed to have evolved in humans to maximize their own spread—which means sickening, but not killing, people.
By contrast, the two prior novel coronavirus outbreaks—SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, named for where the first outbreak occurred)—were picked up from animals, as was H5N1. These diseases were highly fatal to humans. If there were mild or asymptomatic cases, they were extremely few. Had there been more of them, the disease would have spread widely. Ultimately, SARS and MERS each killed fewer than 1,000 people.
COVID-19 is already reported to have killed more than twice that number. With its potent mix of characteristics, this virus is unlike most that capture popular attention: It is deadly, but not too deadly. It makes people sick, but not in predictable, uniquely identifiable ways. Last week, 14 Americans tested positive on a cruise ship in Japan despite feeling fine—the new virus may be most dangerous because, it seems, it may sometimes cause no symptoms at all.
“We didn’t have any self-admitted proletarians. Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist.”
From today’s NYT. He’s not overly impressed by Sanders, but…
I’m more concerned about (a) the electability of someone who says he’s a socialist even though he isn’t and (b) if he does win, whether he’ll squander political capital on unwinnable fights like abolishing private health insurance. But if he’s the nominee, it’s the job of Dems to make him electable if at all possible.
To be honest, a Sanders administration would probably leave center-left policy wonks like me out in the cold, at least initially. And if a President Sanders or his advisers say things I think are foolish, I won’t pretend otherwise in an attempt to ingratiate myself. (Sorry, I’m still not a convert to Modern Monetary Theory.) But this is no time for self-indulgence and ego trips. Freedom is on the line.
This morning’s Observer column on the EU’s plans for regulating AI and data:
Once you get beyond the mandatory euro-boosting rhetoric about how the EU’s “technological and industrial strengths”, “high-quality digital infrastructure” and “regulatory framework based on its fundamental values” will enable Europe to become “a global leader in innovation in the data economy and its applications”, the white paper seems quite sensible. But as for all documents dealing with how actually to deal with AI, it falls back on the conventional bromides about human agency and oversight, privacy and governance, diversity, non-discrimination and fairness, societal wellbeing, accountability and that old favourite “transparency”. The only discernible omissions are motherhood and apple pie.
But this is par for the course with AI at the moment: the discourse is invariably three parts generalities, two parts virtue-signalling leavened with a smattering of pious hopes. It’s got to the point where one longs for some plain speaking and common sense.
And, as luck would have it, along it comes in the shape of Sir David Spiegelhalter, an eminent Cambridge statistician and former president of the Royal Statistical Society. He has spent his life trying to teach people how to understand statistical reasoning, and last month published a really helpful article in the Harvard Data Science Review on the question “Should we trust algorithms?”