Self Isolation – What Does It Mean for Employees and Employers?

By Joanna Sutton

Principal Associate

Last week over 600,000 individuals were told to self-isolate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. With more and more people now being told to self-isolate we look at what it means for employers and what they need to do in response.

When does an employee have to self-isolate?

An individual must self-isolate if:

  • They have COVID-19 symptoms or have tested positive
  • They are told to self-isolate by NHS test and trace
  • Someone in their household has symptoms or has tested positive
  • They have arrived in England from abroad from a red list country or from an amber list country and they have not been fully vaccinated

What does self-isolation mean?

An individual who is told to self-isolate must stay at home for at least 10 days, unless they are told otherwise by NHS test and trace or the app.

If they are at work when they receive the self isolation notification they must go home immediately.

Whilst self-isolating they must not go to work, go out to buy food or exercise. Instead they must stay at home.

It is an offence for an employer to knowingly allow an employee to come into work if they are meant to be self-isolating, punishable by a fine of up to £10,000.

Can an individual work from home whilst self-isolating?

If the employee is well enough and the employer is happy for them to work at home while self-isolating, then they may do so, although there is no automatic right or requirement to allow this.

What pay are staff entitled to while self-isolating?

If a member of staff is working their usual hours then they should receive full pay in the normal way.

If they aren’t able to work from home, or their employee prefers them not to, they must be paid at least SSP if:

  • They have tested positive or have symptoms of COVID-19
  • Someone in their household has symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19
  • They have been advised by doctor to stay at home before going for a surgery
  • They have been told to isolate by NHS test and trace

It is also possible to furlough staff who have to self-isolate but there is no obligation on employers to agree to do so. Employers should also be aware that they have to contribute towards the cost of furlough and details of those using the furlough scheme will be published online.

Alternatively, employees could request holiday to cover the self-isolation period, which would be paid at their full rate of pay, but there is no obligation on an employer to grant holiday.

Self-isolation/quarantine after returning to the UK from abroad

Employees who have to self-isolate when returning from abroad have no right to SSP. They can ask to take extra holiday for the period they have required to self-isolate, but an employer does not have to agree to this.

There is no other right to be paid for the time off and so this can be taken as unpaid leave. Employers are advised to be clear with their staff what may happen if they choose to travel abroad and are required to isolate upon their return, particularly as the Government rules can change at very short notice.

Exemptions from self isolation

Last week the Government announced that certain workers in critical services would be exempt from the self isolation rules so that they were able to attend work. This includes employees in sectors such as energy, food production and supply, transport and emergency services. Employers who are eligible for this exemption will be notified in the next few days.

After 16 August 2021

At present it is understood that the self-isolation rules are to change from 16 August 2021 so that all employees who have been fully vaccinated with two doses for at least 14 days will not have to self-isolate. However, further details as to how this will work in practice are yet to be announced although anyone who tests positive will still have to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status.

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.