The latest guidance is that those who have a new persistent cough or high temperature, those with coronavirus, those with others in their household with symptoms, or those advised to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111 should self-isolate. The NHS website has guidance on how to recognise a high temperature and new continuous cough: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
The period of self-isolation is for 7 days for people with symptoms, but for those who are self-isolating because someone in their household has symptoms, they need to self-isolate for 14 days.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) regulations have been amended to include self-isolation to prevent the spread of coronavirus on the advice of Public Health England or its equivalent. This change takes affect from 13th March 2020 and although it is not retrospective the guidance is that employers should treat those employees who were self-isolating in accordance with the official advice in the same way and pay them SSP, even if there was no fit note to cover the absence.
Where there is written notice from a doctor or other qualified medical professional that a person should self-isolate then there is a legal obligation to pay SSP where they meet the normal qualifying rules.
An employee can self-certify their own sickness for the first 7 days and some may do this where they believe they have the coronavirus or symptoms of it. The Government have “strongly suggested” employers to be more flexible and exercise discretion where an employee may not have a fit note, but “isolation notes” are now available from NHS 111 Online, NHS mobile phone app and the NHS website, so employers should be accepting these as suitable evidence.
Where possible it is good practice to consider paying full pay to prevent an employee from coming to work and spreading the virus to others. Employers will need to take special account of those employees who don’t qualify for SSP. The Government has implemented emergency legislation to give those employees who are self-isolating on medical advice the right to receive payment on the first 3 waiting days of SSP, which in ordinary circumstances would normally be unpaid.
The new legislation came into force 28 March 2020 and applies to anyone who had a period of incapacity due to coronavirus on or after 13 March 2020. As with all of these new measures the Government have recommended that employers apply the same principles to those employees who were self-isolating prior to 13 March 2020. There are also measures in place to provide funding through state benefits such as Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit to those employees who wouldn’t ordinarily qualify for SSP or other sick pay.
In the Budget it was announced that there will be temporary help for employers with less than 250 employees so that they are able to recover the first 14 days of SSP paid, plus help by way of a new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and cash grants for small businesses with losses due to coronavirus. Early indications state that employers will be required to keep records of absence, so it is important that you are keeping records now of what time off employees have and the reason/s why.
If a fit note has been issued then you should follow your normal sick leave and sick pay policy as appropriate. We anticipate that the right to receive SSP from day one will also apply in these circumstances and where an employee has been diagnosed with coronavirus.