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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Self-isolation and Sick Pay


The rapidity with which the Covid-19 pandemic has swept through the population has left many employers and employees unsure as to their legal obligations regarding employee absence.

In the UK, a key aspect of the debate has centred on whether employees that are self-isolating are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Who must self-isolate?

The latest guidance from Public Health England states that if someone has symptoms and lives alone, they must self-isolate for 7 days.

However, if someone lives in a household and is the first to have symptoms, they too must self-isolate for 7 days, whilst everyone else in their household must self-isolate for 14 days. If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, the person with the new symptoms must self-isolate for 7 days. This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period.

Entitlement to SSP

Current guidance issued by ACAS states that employees and workers must receive any SSP due to them if they need to self-isolate because:

  • they have coronavirus
  • they have coronavirus symptoms (such as a high temperature or new, continuous cough)
  • someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
  • they’ve been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111

Employees should inform their employer as soon as possible if they are unable to work and follow their workplace’s usual sickness reporting processes.

Employees can ‘self-certify’ for the first 7 days off work, however where an employee is self-isolating for more than 7 days, they will need to get a self-isolation note from their doctor or via NHS 111. Online self-isolation notes can be obtained from the NHS website and mobile app.

ACAS suggests that employers might need to be flexible when it comes to self-isolation notes, as an employee with severe symptoms, for example, might not be able to get a note straight away.

Recent legislative changes mean that employees can claim SSP from the first day of absence due to coronavirus. This applies to all absences falling on or after 13 March 2020.

Who pays SSP?

Employers with fewer than 250 employees will now be able to reclaim SSP paid in respect of the first 14 days of COVID-19-related sickness absence. This applies retrospectively from 14 March 2020. In all other cases, the duty remains with the employer to pay SSP.

*The information set out in this article is correct at the date of publication (31 March, 2020). The effect of coronavirus on businesses is a fast-changing area and so it is important to obtain legal advice to ensure you are properly protected. Find out more about the latest Government support for employees.

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If you have any questions regarding the impact of the Coronavirus upon you or your business or are seeking up-to-date legal advice, contact Peter Rolph on 01202 294 566 or email [email protected].

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