Self-isolation and Social Distancing
1. When should I self-isolate?
The current guidance provides that :
From 13 March 2020, anyone with flu-like symptoms, defined as a fever of 37.8c or a persistent cough is to stay at home. If they reside with other people they should ensure that everyone in their household remains at home. The current guidance updated from 16 March 2020 provides that: – If a person lives alone they should remain at home for at least 7 days from when their symptoms first began. – For those who live with others the first person in the household to show symptoms should self-isolate for seven days. Anyone else in the household who shows symptoms should self-isolate for 7 days from the day the symptoms start. If someone in the household does not exhibit symptoms they must self-isolate for 14 days from the date the first person in the household exhibited symptoms. If a member of the household shows symptoms they should remain at home for seven days, regardless of what day they are on in the original 14 day isolation period.
Please click here for the Government’s latest guidance on people returning from abroad; the latest guidance on the “lockdown” click here; detailed guidance about which businesses should close click here; and detailed guidance about those who are advised to follow the guidance on “shielding" click here.
Those who are advised to abide by the guidance on shielding are those who the Government for medical reasons deems to be very vulnerable to serious illness from coronavirus. They are also advisied to abide by the guidelines on social distancing.
As an employer if any of your employees falls into any of these groups you should ensure that you give them instructions on the social distancing, self-isolation and shielding rules.
2. Can I send an employee home from work to self-isolate?
Yes you can if there is good reason for doing so. A good reason would probably be if an employee is exhibiting the symptoms of coronavirus or if the employee informs you that a member of their household is exhibiting coronavirus symptoms and is self-isolating. In this case you would have to treat the employee as being on sick leave and would have to pay them SSP or contractual sick pay whichever is applicable.
However if you decide to send the employee home when they are not exhibiting any symptoms and don’t fall within any of the self-isolation categories you may have to pay the employee full pay for insisting the employee stay at home and work from home. If there is no work for the employee to do from home then you may wish to consider furloughing the employee, laying the employee off or asking the employee to take paid or unpaid annual leave. This is all subject to the provisions in the employee’s contract of employment and the employee’s consent.
1. I understand that the over -70s could be required to self-isolate for up to 12 months. I am 73 years old and run my business. I employ 7 workers. What can I do if this were to be made law?
If this were to happen we would need the full details. The Government may make this voluntary or compulsory. It is difficult to see the Government making this compulsory with penalties for breach.
As the director and guiding light of your business you may wish to consider alternatives that would ensure that if you were not in a position to run your business you have someone who can assist. Do you have a deputy or a friend or member of your family who can assist you? There are several possibilities – remote working being the most obvious. Most business can operate remotely. You may wish to ensure that your business has the technology it needs to enable you communicate with your staff and have meetings with them as appropriate.
You should also have due regard to the health and safety of all your employees and those employees who are over 70 years old. You may wish to ensure that they are all computer literate so that they can work from home if need be.
2. One of my employees has told me that he does not want to work from the office because he has children and does not want to contract coronavirus from staff in the office. What do I do?
If your member of staff does not wish to work from the office but does not fall within any of of the categories that should self-isolate, you should listen to his concerns and read the latest Government guidance before deciding on what to do. As you are already aware the Government has advised that wherever possible all employees should now be working from home.
If the member of staff falls within a high risk group and is really concerned about contracting coronavirus you should discuss with the employee and see whether there any ways or steps that you can take to alleviate their concerns. If the employee can work from home using technology you may wish to agree to the employee working from home. If the member of staff is disabled allowing him/her to work from home would count as a reasonable adjustment under the Equality Act 2010. Failure to allow the member of staff to work from home if the member of staff were disabled could be deemed to be discrimination if the member of staff were to issue proceedings in the Employment Tribunal.
You may also wish to suggest that the member of staff take paid annual leave or unpaid leave for a specific period of time.
You should also ensure that all staff in your office practice safe hygiene and social distancing and that all surfaces are regularly disinfected. If after considering the member of staff’s reasons you are convinced that the member does not have a good reason for not wanting to work from the office and you cannot make any reasonable adjustments you need to be frank with the member of staff. If the member of staff decides not to attend work you can treat his/her absence as an unauthorised absence and inform him/her that he will not be paid.
We would advise that you contact us for advice if you are faced with this kind of problem.
3. Can I furlough a worker who is shielding?
Yes you can. Under the latest Government Guidance a worker who is shielding is not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay and should not be attending work. If the employee or worker cannot work from home you are entitled to furlough the worker.
4. One of my employees has been absent from work on annual leave for two weeks as she has to care for her children now schools are closed. She has almost exhausted her annual leave and is worried about losing pay. She is a good worker and I would like to retain her however I cannot afford to continue to pay her whilst she is off work.
You have several options – You can furlough her under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, grant her dependents leave or agree with her that she could work from home. You are under no obligation to pay her if she decides to take dependents leave. It all depends on your business’s finances.
5. Must I pay a member of staff who is self-isolating due to sickness or if they are following Government guidance?
Yes the member of staff is entitled to SSP or contractual sick pay depending on the terms of their contract.
6. My member of staff who is self-isolating has emailed me to tell me that he is entitled to SSP from day one of his sickness absence. I have always paid SSP from the fourth (4th) day of an employee’s sickness absence.
Yes. The Government’s regulations now permit payment of SSP from day one of an employee’s absence from work (rather than day four), where the member of staff is incapable, or deemed to be incapable, of working due to coronavirus. This applies retrospectively for absence on or after 13 March 2020.
7. My accountant has told me that I can reclaim the cost of SSP from the Government. Is that true?
Yes it is. On 11 March 2020 the Chancellor Mr Rishi Sunak announced that employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to recover the cost of SSP for work absences due to coronavirus.
Employers will be able to reclaim two weeks SSP for eligible employees off work due to coronavirus. Please see the Government Guidance for employers who qualify to reclaim SSP.