Reality Check is a new series of quick Q+A guides with advice on hot topics.
Over the past few weeks we’ve heard a lot of discussion about what employers must do if a member of staff needs to self-isolate under Covid-19 rules. Here’s what you need to know:
Who must self-isolate?
Government advice is that any person with symptoms, however mild, or who lives in a household where someone has symptoms, should self-isolate for 14 days, along with everyone in their household.
A person may also be required to self-isolate if they are asked to do so by the NHS Test and Trace service or notified by the NHS Covid-19 app.
In all cases, an employee with symptoms should ask for a test. If the test is negative, then isolation is no longer required and they may return to work.
Is it my responsibility as an employer to ensure a member of staff self-isolates?
Responsibility for self-isolation lies with the individual. However, from September 28, employers have been subject to tougher rules to ensure pressure is not placed on staff to return to work when they should be isolating.
It is now an offence in England for employers to knowingly allow any member of staff who is required to self-isolate – including agency workers – to go to their place of work or another place to work.
Employers who breach this can be fined on a sliding scale, starting at £1,000.
Workers may be asked to continue working from home if they can.
If one member of staff needs to self-isolate, should I send everyone home?
The government advice is that staff who have been in recent close contact to an infected colleague should be sent home. There is a judgment to be made here by the employer who must take every reasonable step to comply – our advice would be to look at cases individually and err on the side of caution where necessary.
Must I pay staff who are self-isolating?
Employees who have coronavirus, or who cannot work because they are self-isolating, are now entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one. This includes people who do not have symptoms, and those in the same household as others who display symptoms and are following government public health advice to self-isolate.
The scheme has been extended to cover those instructed to self-isolate by the NHS test and trace service and Covid-19 app.
Employers with 250 employees or less can recover two weeks of SSP paid to employees for absences due to coronavirus from March 13, 2020 onwards. More information is available on the Government website.
For more in-depth advice from the Reality HR team see our Test and Trace factsheet.