When do employees need to self-isolate?


From Monday 28 September 2020, it became a criminal offence for an employer to knowingly permit a worker (including an agency worker) to attend any place other than where the individual is self-isolating. This includes individuals who are required to self-isolate because they live with someone who has tested positive. So if the employee knows a worker has tested positive (or lives with someone who has tested positive), you as the employer are now responsible for stopping the worker from working (unless they can work from home). Any employer who fails to do so will face a fine, starting at £1,000.

There are currently several circumstances which may require an employee to self-isolate. An employee will only need to self-isolate if:

· the employee has symptoms pf coronavirus and tested positive or did not have a test;

· somebody is the employee’s household has tested positive for coronavirus or has symptoms; or

· the employee has been told to self-isolate by a Government Track & Trace Team or the Track & Trace app.

How long an employee needs to self-isolate depends on if the employee has coronavirus (COVID-19) or if they've been in close contact with someone who does.

If the employee has symptoms or tested positive

Self-isolate for at least 10 days

The employee must self-isolate for at least 10 days if:

  • the employee has symptoms of coronavirus and the employee tested positive, had an unclear result or did not have a test

  • the employee tested positive but have not had symptoms

If the employee has symptoms, the 10 days start from when they started.

If the employee has not had symptoms, the 10 days start from when the employee had the test. But if the employee gets symptoms after their test, the employee must self-isolate for a further 10 days from when the employee’s symptoms started.

Stop self-isolating after 10 days if the employee feels OK

The employee can stop self-isolating after 10 days if either:

  • the employee no longer has any symptoms; or

  • the employee just has a cough or changes to their sense of smell or taste – these can last for weeks after the infection has gone.


Keep self-isolating if the employee feels unwell

The employee should keep self-isolating if they have any of these symptoms after 10 days:

  • a high temperature or feeling hot and shivery

  • a runny nose or sneezing

  • feeling or being sick

  • diarrhoea

The employee can only stop self-isolating when these symptoms have gone.

If the employee has diarrhoea or the they’re being sick, the employee should stay at home for 48 hours after they stopped.


If the employee lives with someone who has symptoms or tests positive

Self-isolate for 14 days

The employee must self-isolate for 14 days if the employee lives with (or are in a support bubble with) someone who:

  • has symptoms of coronavirus and tested positive, had an unclear result or did not have a test

  • tested positive but has not had symptoms

This is because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear.

The 14 days starts from:

  • when the first person in the employee’s home or support bubble started having symptoms; or

  • the day they were tested, if they have not had symptoms – but if they get symptoms after they were tested, the employee must self-isolate for a further 14 days from when their symptoms start

Stop self-isolating after 14 days if the employee does not get symptoms

The employee can stop self-isolating after 14 days if the employee does not get any symptoms.

Keep self-isolating and get a test if the employee gets symptoms

If the employee get symptoms while they're self-isolating then they should get tested.

If the employee’s test is negative, the employee must keep self-isolating for the rest of the 14 days.

If the employee’s test is positive, the employee must self-isolate for 10 days from when the employee’s symptoms started. This might mean they're self-isolating for longer than 14 days overall.

If the employee is told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app

Self-isolate for 14 days

An employee must self-isolate for 14 days if either:

  • the employee receives a text, email or call from NHS Test and Trace telling the employee to self-isolate; or

  • the employee receives an alert from the NHS COVID-19 app telling the employee to self-isolate.

This is because the employee has been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus and there's a chance the employee might have caught it.

The employee needs to self-isolate for 14 days because it can take 14 days for symptoms to appear.

What pay is the employee entitled to?

If an employee is required to self-isolate due to coronavirus then they may be entitled to SSP if they are eligible.

If your business provides enhanced sick pay and the employee has symptoms then they may also be eligible to receive contractual sick pay, subject to the terms of any contractual sick pay scheme.

Employers may be able to recover 2 weeks coronavirus related Statutory Sick Pay from the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme.

Employees can work from home

If an employee is willing and able to work from home then they can, even if they have been told to self-isolate, but they must remain in self-isolation.

Should you have any queries then do not hesitate to contact Greystone Legal for specific advice.

The advice in this document is correct as of 29 September 2020

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