What are your obligations if your staff are advised to self-isolate due to local lockdowns or school closures?

An employee could be self-isolating because are living with someone with symptoms and / or waiting for test results but are well enough to work. In this instance options include:

  • Take ‘time off for dependants’ which is a period of unpaid leave to sort out emergency. This would usually cover a couple of days and wouldn’t stretch for the full 14 days but could be used in tandom with either of the below.
  • Work remotely from home around other commitments. You may want to consider adjusting working times and hours to compensate for their other commitments (ie childcare).
  • Take the time off as unpaid leave.
  • Take annual leave. However, the employee may not be keen as self-isolation could occur frequently over the coming months and therefore leave will be used up quickly.
  • Furlough the employee (before the scheme ends on 31st October). This only applies to staff who have previously been furloughed.

Should staff receive sick pay during self-isolation? 

If the employee is sick and not fit from work, from March 2020 employees who self-isolate must receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) at a minimum from the first day they are absent if:

  • they have coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • they have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature, a new continuous cough or a loss of, or change in, sense of smell or taste
  • someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
  • they’ve been advised to stay at home by their doctor because of an underlying health condition
  • they’ve been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111
  • they’ve been told to self-isolate by a government ‘test and trace’ service, because they’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive (‘NHS Test and Trace’ in England, ‘Test and Protect’ in Scotland or ‘Test, trace, protect’ in Wales)

Staff must be off work for at least four days in a row (including non-working days) to be eligible for SSP. Some employers can claim back up to 2 weeks’ SSP they’ve paid to anyone because of coronavirus.

If the employee is self-isolating but not ill  then they should use one of the options above.

What if you have to send an employee home because they are showing symptoms? 

In line with government guidance the employee needs to self-isolate and book a test. In this case they would receive SSP from day one.

What if an employee travels back from a non-exempt country, what do they get paid?

They would not qualify for SSP as it was their choice to travel to the country. Therefore, they would need to take the 14 day self-isolation as either:

  • Remote working (agreed with you)
  • Take the time as unpaid leave.
  • Take the time as annual leave.

We made staff redundant during lockdown and now need to make more, do we have to go through a second period of consultation? 

Where employees have more than two years’ service a redundancy consultation process must be followed whenever redundancy is being proposed by a business.

Do employers have an obligation to manage staff behaviour outside of work putting others at risk? 

If a member of staff is putting your other employees at risk due to their conduct outside of work, you are entitled to act on that. You may see on social media that they are not adhering to social distancing for example. This can be done through the Company’s disciplinary procedure in the first instance. Make sure that your policy is up to date and you’re keeping your workplace safe and secure.

Does the rule of six apply to the workplace? 

No, currently the government advise is that the rule of six does not apply to workplaces

What about employees advised again to shield? 

They would be eligible for SSP from the first day in line with government guidance.

Could I qualify for the SSP Rebate Scheme? 

This scheme is for employers. You can claim back up to 2 weeks of SSP if:

  • you have already paid your employee’s sick pay (use the SSP calculator to work out how much to pay)
  • you’re claiming for an employee who’s eligible for sick pay due to coronavirus
  • you have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020
  • you had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020 across all your PAYE payroll schemes

Employees do not have to give you a doctor’s fit note for you to make a claim. But you can ask them to give you either:

  • an isolation note from NHS 111 – if they are self-isolating and cannot work because of coronavirus (COVID-19)
  • the NHS or GP letter telling them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks because they’re at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
  • fixed term contracts (until the date their contract ends)

Can I claim for a SSP rebate if I’m also claiming for wages under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme? 

You can claim back from both the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for the same employee but not for the same period of time.