Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said that ” “Self-isolation on medical advice is considered sickness for employment purposes. That is a very important message for employers and those who can go home and self-isolate as if they were sick because it is for medical reasons.”
The Government is, therefore, recommending that Employers do pay Employees who are in self-isolation but cannot work.
Self-isolation is great, of course, if you are an office working with remote, agile, working technology. But if you are a shop assistant, factory worker or other manual workers, then “working from home” is not a realistic option.
Whether an Employer has to pay an Employee can depend on what your employment contracts and staff handbook say. If Employees get full or part pay for sick leave, then you will have to carry that on. If you do not have a policy, then whether you have to pay Statutory Sick Pay will depend, in my view, on the circumstances.
There is new legislation specifically for the Coronavirus response – The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 which allow at section 8 the isolation of people suspected of having the virus. Of course, if an employee is ordered or detained in isolation by authorities, then it will be considered Sick Leave and therefore SSP should be paid.
Equally, if someone self-isolates because they are given written notice, issued by a GP or by 111, then they are “incapable of work” and so are entitled to statutory sick pay.
Do you need to pay an employee who self-isolates due to visiting an affected Country such as China or Italy?
If an employee decides to self-isolate, without health authority intervention and written notice, then despite what Matt Hancock suggests, they are not entitled to statutory sick pay.
However, given the Government’s guidance, ACAS’s guidance and other companies such as Greggs who has announced they would pay staff who self-isolate due to Coronavirus, it would seem good practise to do so. Not essential, but good practice.
Perhaps more importantly, do you really want a potentially affected employee at work, potentially spreading the risk to all of your staff? No! So I would suggest that if you have any employees who are returning from affected countries, then you should be telling them not to come into work and that you will pay them to sit at home for 14 days.
As with this rapidly changing situation, you should keep an eye on the Government website: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response
Update 4th March 2020 – Sick Pay Now Paid from Day 1
The Government announced on the 4th March 2020 they will allow the payment of Statutory Sick Pay from the very first day an employee is sick instead of four days under the current rules.
Boris Johnson said “No one should be penalised for doing the right thing.”
It remains to be seen whether SSP will be payable for those self-isolating, but given this comment, it would appear to be in the minds of the Government that self-isolation where note pursuant to a Notice (as referred to above) should also be considered Sick Leave.