How to Deal with Self Isolating Staff

A common question being asked as the new COVID variant takes hold and revised testing and isolating rules come in to play, is do you have to pay employees who are self-isolating full wage because they have been pinged by NHS Test and Trace? If so, is there any help available for employers?

With the possibility of a rise in the number of staff self-isolating, the question as to whether they are entitled to full pay is on the lips of many business owners.

The short answer is it will depend upon the circumstances as to why they are self-isolating as to whether you are required to pay them, how much you need to pay them, and what you are able to claim back.

What are the new Track and Trace rules?

From 14 December 2021, adults who are fully vaccinated and who come into contact with someone with COVID-19 do not need to self-isolate. Instead, they are advised to take a lateral flow test every day for seven days. Should the test show a positive result, or the person develop COVID symptoms, they will need to self-isolate and take a PCR test to confirm the result. If the result is positive, they must isolate for ten days from the date of the positive lateral flow test result, or the onset of symptoms.

Adults who are not fully vaccinated must follow a different set of rules. They must isolate for ten days if they come into contact with someone with COVID-19. However, if their workplace is eligible for daily workplace contact testing, they will be exempt from isolation.

Learn more on the government website.

Do I have to pay my employees Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

If an employee would normally be eligible for SSP, they are self-isolating and they are off work for a minimum of four consecutive days, including usual non-working days, then you are required to pay them SSP for every day they are absent, providing one or more of the following applies:

  • They or someone they live with has symptoms of, or has tested positive for, COVID-19
  • They are unvaccinated and have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • They are unvaccinated and someone in their support bubble has symptoms of COVID-19, or has tested positive for COVID-19
  • They have been advised by a medical professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery for up to 14 days

If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, but is well enough to work from home and can perform their role at home, then there is no reason why they cannot do so, and be paid as normal.

How much is Statutory Sick Pay and can I claim it back?

Employees who are eligible can claim SSP for their qualifying days at £96.35 per week. This can be claimed for a maximum of 28 weeks. SSP is only available from the fourth qualifying day, but if an employee is off sick or self-isolating due to COVID-19, or has tested positive for COVID-19, you should pay SSP from the first qualifying day, as long as the employee is off for at least four consecutive days (including their non-working days).

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (CSSPRS) will repay SSP that employers have already paid to current or former employees, but it is now only possible to claim for those who were off work due to COVID-19 on or before 30 September 2021.

You can claim back up to 2 weeks of SSP if:

  • They or someone they live with has symptoms of, or has tested positive for, COVID-19
  • They are unvaccinated and have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19
  • They are unvaccinated and someone in their support bubble has symptoms of COVID-19, or has tested positive for COVID-19
  • They have been advised by a medical professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery for up to 14 days

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); a shielding note, or a letter from their doctor or health authority advising them to shield because they are at high risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

Claims must be made by 31 December 2021.

Learn more on the government website.

Do I have to pay staff anything other than SSP whilst they are self-isolating?

The contract of employment and your company's sick pay or special leave policy will dictate whether your employee might be entitled to enhanced contractual or occupational sick pay.

Alternatively, if your employee is not able to work from home and receive full pay, or does not qualify for SSP or contractual sick pay, you could let the employee take any owed annual leave, so that they can take the necessary time off and be paid for it.

If your employee is on a low income in these circumstances and asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, they may be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace support payment. There is more information on how to apply on the government website.

If none of these options are available, you may have to offer unpaid leave. Employees are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they are in self-isolation or quarantine following travel abroad and cannot work from home. You can choose to pay your employee at the same rate as SSP or higher if you wish, but there is no requirement to pay unless they are able to work from home or take annual leave for the time they cannot attend work.

Need help complying with your employer duties?

If you are looking for help with Statutory Sick Pay and your responsibilities as an employer under the various COVID-19 rules, we are here to help. Please get in touch to discuss how we can assist.

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