What happens if an employee has to self-isolate?

What happens if an employee has to self-isolate? - scrabble tiles

14th October 2020

What happens if an employee has to self-isolate? - scrabble tiles

The rate of covid infections is increasing on a daily basis – with significant changes in certain areas. Thus, there’s great potential for individuals having to self-isolate. So what happens if an employee has to self-isolate because:
a.) They’ve become infected or …
b.) … had contact with someone known to have the virus?
This in turn places greater focus on the effect on the employment relationship. And, in particular, the response of the employer/employee in these situations.
The government is introducing fines of up to £10,000 for individuals and businesses who don’t respect the self-isolation rules. They’re also creating an offence where an employer knowingly permits a worker to attend a place other than where they are self-isolating. Ergo, it’s more important than ever to know what to do when one of your employees has to self-isolate.
What happens if an employee has to self-isolate? - Woman coughing
Employers should neither need nor permit employees to attend work in the following instances:
  1. They, or a member of their household (or support bubble), has symptoms of coronavirus.
  2. The NHS track and trace has advised self-isolation. Nor if they otherwise become aware that a person they’ve been in close contact with has tested positive.
  3. They have returned from a country not exempt from quarantine requirements.
If the employee can work from home, and is well enough to do so, then they should do so with no change to their pay. But if they cannot work from home, their entitlement varies, as follows:

Employees required to self-isolate under points 1 or 2 above

The employee has entitlement to Statutory sick pay (SSP), even if they’re not unwell themselves.
There’s been a lifting of the normal rule that says there can’t be any paying of SSP until day four of illness in cases involving coronavirus. This means that self-isolating employees have entitlement to SSP from day one of their isolation. Yet, employees are still required to self-isolate for at least for days for the entitlement to arise at all.
This means that, where employees begin to self-isolate but receive a negative test result that releases them from self-isolation within three days, they have no entitlement to SSP for those three days.
If the employee is unwell, they have entitlement to any contractual sick pay. If they’re not unwell, company sick pay wouldn’t usually be payable. But employers should look at the wording of their company sick pay rules. Some employers may decide to pay company sick pay even if not obliged to. This is to encourage employees not to come in to work when they should be self-isolating.

Your employee is on furlough

The rules of the furlough scheme aren’t clear in this scenario. Yet, it appears that employers can choose whether to keep the employee on furlough, or to pay them SSP instead. If they make a claim for SSP, you can’t claim the employee’s salary under the furlough scheme for the same period.
If there’s a claim made already, that will need rectifying with HMRC. On the other hand, if you keep an employee on furlough they have no entitlement to SSP. This will of course only apply until the end of October when the Job Retention Scheme ceases.
Similarly, employers can decide whether to keep employees who are flexibly furloughed on furlough – or move them to SSP.
Where the employer moves the employee to SSP, the employee is entitled to SSP for both working days and those which would have been furlough days. But, where an employee remains furloughed for part of the week and should be working for the rest, the prevailing opinion is that employees should get SSP entitlement for the days which fall on working days and furlough pay for their furlough days.
You’ll also have to consider the entitlement to contractual sick pay in this situation.

Employee required to self-isolate under point 3 above

In this case, the employee cannot have SSP or contractual sick pay. Employees may request annual leave to cover this period if they have enough leave left. If they don’t then they may have to take unpaid leave.
As with the above scenarios, it’s untested whether employers can put employees on furlough to cover a quarantine period. Further, furloughing the employee will trigger the need to top up pay by 20% in October and pay pension and National Insurance contributions.
NB: The furlough scheme is closed to new entrants. This means that only those who’ve been on furlough before can go on furlough again.
BUT: if the employee develops symptoms during their quarantine period, they will then become entitled to SSP and any company enhanced sick pay. That means the employer can manage their absence as set out above.
What happens if an employee has to self-isolate? If you need any help and advice with any of this then Go-Legal is here.  There’s several ways to get in touch. You can use our webform on our website here

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