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Self Isolation Advice for Businesses 

There’s lots of confusion around self-isolation and COVID-19, especially what employees and employers should do in the event of a self-isolation case. Take a look at the following guidance for more information about the rules of Self-Isolation and what businesses and their employees should do if Self-Isolation situations arise.

 

What Are the Rules on Self Isolation

  • Anyone who experiences a new continuous cough, a fever or the loss of smell or taste (otherwise known as “anosmia”) should self-isolate for a minimum of 7 days. After those 7 days, if their symptoms get worse or they show no improvement, advice should be sought by NHS online, and it is likely a further 7 days of self-isolation will be advised.
  • Anyone who tests positive for Coronavirus will be required to self-isolate for a minimum of 7 days and should use the Test and Trace system to inform Contact Tracers of who they have recently been in contact with. For the purposes of Test and Trace, “contact” is defined as being within 2 meters of someone for 15 minutes or more.
  • Anyone who comes into contact with a suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus should seek advice from NHS online, and will likely be advised to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they do not exhibit symptoms. If symptoms develop, the advice changes to 7 days of self-isolation, starting from the first day of symptoms.
  • Anyone who is contacted by Test and Trace must self-isolate for a period of 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms. If symptoms develop, the advice changes to 7 days of self-isolation, starting from the first day of symptoms.
  • Anyone who lives in the same household as someone who is exhibiting Coronavirus symptoms, or someone who has tested positive for Coronavirus, should self-isolate for 14 days, even if the ill person only self-isolates for 7 days. There is no need to seek NHS advice to confirm that self-isolation is appropriate in these circumstances. People who share a house with someone who has been contacted by the Test and Trace system, but who does not have symptoms, are not required to self-isolate unless the person contacted develops symptoms.

 

Absence Management & Self Isolation

Employees have been advised that they can get an “Isolation Note”, which is the equivalent of a Fit Note, from the NHS online service. Employers are advised to be flexible with absence documentation requirements when an employee is absent due to the Coronavirus, because the NHS is understandably experiencing significant strain and therefore employees may find it difficult obtaining Isolation Notes.

It’s currently unclear what evidence employees who have been advised to self-isolate by the Test and Trace system will be able to provide to their employers. There is currently no information on this, but it’s assumed that the Test and Trace system will provide employees with an “Isolation Note”. Employers should support the Test and Trace system and should not ask an isolating employee to return to the workplace before the 14 days are up. 

The Government have been clear that any absence relating to the Coronavirus should not be included in any absence management procedures, even if the employee’s attendance record is already considered “problematic”. No employee should suffer a detriment for complying with Government and NHS guidance on this matter. However, anyone who has been advised to self-isolate to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus but chooses to disregard this information and remain at work, can be investigated and managed in line with the Company’s disciplinary procedure.

 

Self-Isolation and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

On 13 March 2020 the Government confirmed that anyone who self-isolates due to the above requirements will be entitled to receive SSP, even if they have no symptoms. On 28 March 2020 the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force, which means that SSP is now payable from the first day of an employee’s absence, rather than the fourth day, where the absence is due to Coronavirus symptoms or preventative self-isolation. This new legislation can be backdated to cover absences that started on or after 13th March 2020.

On 27 July 2020, following a change in rules for anyone who returns to the UK from Spain, the Government have confirmed that anyone who must self-isolate after entering or returning to the UK will not be entitled to SSP for the 14 days they self-isolate. Where this causes an employee to self-isolate for 14 days following a period of annual leave, employers have been told to “exercise good will” and “be reasonable”. The Government have been clear that employees cannot be penalised for following official advice / self-isolating when required, especially when the rules can change so quickly and the self-isolation rules may be imposed when the employee is already on holiday. In the absence of SSP, employers can allow employees to use more annual leave to cover self-isolation (if applicable), employees can work from home, or employees can take unpaid leave.

However, if an employee who returns from holiday is required to self-isolate because they or a member of their household is exhibiting Coronavirus symptoms, the employee would be entitled to SSP during their period of self-isolation, as detailed in the above bullet points.

 

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