Employer and Employee Obligations Following a Positive Coronavirus Test

By Rachel Davis

Principal Associate

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees. This includes ensuring that the workplace is COVID-secure.

Given the recent significant rise in the number of coronavirus cases in the UK, it is inevitable that an employee may develop symptoms of coronavirus or receive a positive coronavirus test.

It is a legal requirement for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus, tests positive for coronavirus or who has been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus, to self-isolate. It is a criminal offence to fail to self-isolate in these circumstances with fines up to £10,000.

What if an Employee Develops Coronavirus Symptoms?

It is essential that an employee who has symptoms of coronavirus does not attend work.

An employee who is required to self-isolate should stay at home and inform their employer of their need to self-isolate and the period of isolation as soon as possible.

If an employee develops symptoms at work, they should inform their employer immediately and go home to self-isolate and arrange to be tested.

The employee or employer should alert those colleagues that had close contact with the employee within the 48 hours before symptoms developed.

Employees who have been in close contact with the affected employee do not need to self-isolate unless they have symptoms of coronavirus. If they are instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, this will be for a period of up to 14 days.

What if an Employee Receives a Positive Coronavirus Test?

If an employee receives a positive test, they are required to self-isolate for 10 full days after the date their symptoms started or, if asymptomatic, 10 full days after the date of the positive test.

The business does not need to close but employers should follow the government’s cleaning guidance and review existing measures to reduce the COVID-19 risk to other staff, customers and clients.

It is recommended that employers keep their employees informed about coronavirus cases in the workplace, however, in light of GDPR obligations, affected employees should not be named.

Is an Employee Who is Self-Isolating Entitled to Sick Pay?

If the employee is able and well enough to work from home, they should be allowed to do so.

If the employee is unable to work from home, or at all, due to suffering from coronavirus symptoms, they will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and sometimes contractual sick pay if the employment contract provides for this or the employer agrees.

Employees who are required to self-isolate can obtain an isolation note from NHS online which the employer can use as evidence of eligibility for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).

Employees with an isolation note, but who are not sick, are now treated as having a ‘deemed’ sickness for the purpose of SSP and will remain eligible for SSP, even if they are not entitled to contractual sick pay.

Employers should support employees who need to comply with COVID-19 public health self-isolation guidelines and must not knowingly allow a person who has been told to self-isolate to work anywhere other than where they are self-isolating. Employers found to be in breach of this requirement will be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (starting at £1,000).

We recommend employers always follow government guidance, have a clear policy in place, carefully consider their risk assessments and take the appropriate action should an employee develop symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.

For more information and to find out how we can help you, please contact us on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.