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There could be several reasons why an employee wants to self-isolate. How should an employer respond?

One reason is that the employee could have tested positive for the virus. There will be many more who need to self-isolate because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive or who has returned from an affected area abroad.

Employees should receive SSP (from day 1, although the legislation has not yet been enacted). Both this and coronavirus related SSP will be funded by the Government,

Employers should be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. The eligibility criteria for the scheme will be as follows:

  • This refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19.
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible – the size of an employer will be determined by the number of people they employed as of 28 February 2020.
  • Employers will be able to reclaim expenditure for any employee who has claimed SSP (according to the new eligibility criteria) as a result of COVID-19.
  • Employers should maintain records of staff absences and payments of SSP, but employees will not need to provide a GP fit note. If evidence is required by an employer, those with symptoms of coronavirus can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online and those who live with someone that has symptoms can get a note from the NHS website.
  • Eligible period for the scheme will commence the day after the regulations on the extension of SSP to those staying at home comes into force.
    Advice from ACAS.
    Do employers need to pay statutory sick pay?
    If you do not believe the employee has a valid reason for self-isolation (perhaps they are anxious about being among groups of people) then we recommend a meeting to discuss this with them, away from groups of people. Anxiety may be a mental health issue.
    Mental health at work
  • Employees who are extremely vulnerable should have a letter from the NHS to confirm this. These people are to “shield” themselves and will not be able to work. This is  because employers have a duty of care. They can be furloughed if it is shielding that is preventing them from working or if they are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities for someone who is shielding. However it does not necessarily follow that an employee who is sick or self isolating can be furloughed. Please contact us to discuss particular situations.

Updated 16th April 2020

Malcolm Martin FCIPD

Author Human Resource Practice

Blogs are for general guidance and are not an authoritative statement of the law.