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We now know that there are certain instances in which we must self-isolate in order to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Following lockdown and furlough leave, people are returning to their work places around the UK.  However, what is the position if your employer requires you to work but you also have to self-isolate?

Under the current guidelines, employees and workers who need to self-isolate should not leave their home to go to their workplace. This may impact whether you can still perform your job role and consequently, at what rate you are entitled to be paid for the period of self-isolation.

Working from home

If you are able to work from home, then your work may not be affected by having to self-isolate. You should ensure you are familiar with any working from home policies your employer has in place, in addition to any recent business continuation plans. If you are at all unsure, you should speak to your employer so that you both understand what would be expected if you were required to self-isolate. It should not be assumed that you are able to work from home

Unable to work from home

If you are unable to do your job from home, depending on the reason for self-isolating, you may be entitled to statutory sick pay (“SSP”).

If you are required to self-isolate because you have, or a member of household has Covid-19, you have symptoms of Covid-19 or you have been advised to do so by a doctor, NHS 111 or a government ‘test and trace’ service, you will be entitled to SSP from the first day of your absence. Your employer may request evidence of your need to self-isolate in line with their absence policy. In some circumstances, your employer may pay you an amount more than SSP.  This will likely be at their discretion.

What if you have symptoms?

If you are self-isolating because you have symptoms of Covid-19 or have had a positive test result, you may wish to take sickness absence, rather than work from home, if this option is open to you. In such instances, you will be entitled to SSP or contractual sick pay if applicable. Your employer may ask for evidence of your illness, which could include evidence of a positive covid-19 test, as part of their sickness absence policy. To be eligible for SSP, you must be off work for at least 4 days in a row, this includes non-working days, however you will receive SSP from the first day of your absence.

There are some instances in which your employer may be able to recover the costs of the SSP they have paid to you because of coronavirus.

Self-isolation after travelling

There will be instances where individuals must self-isolate because they have travelled from, or through, countries which are not on the government ‘exempt’ list.

If such a situation occurs, the reason for the travel should be considered and distinctions made between recreational travel and ‘necessary’ travel. Employers are encouraged to be respectful and fair towards employees who travel because of a family emergency or the death of a family member.

If the individual cannot work from home when they return, the employer could consider offering unpaid leave or special paid leave for some, or all of the time they’re in self-isolation.

Returning to work

If you are no longer required to self-isolate, your employer may request or expect that you return to your place of work, this would be especially so if you cannot perform your job role from home.

If you are anxious about returning to the work place, it is encouraged to have an open discussion with your employer. They may be able to alleviate any concerns you have, or make adjustments to accommodate your return to the work place. Employees and employers are encouraged to openly discuss their needs and how they can work effectively together to return to usual working patterns.

If you are concerned about how to manage your own, or someone else’s period of self-isolation or return to a place of work, please get in touch with Nick Smith or Laura Tennet from our Employment team to see how we can assist or call 0191 281 6151.


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