Guides & Advice

Self-isolation and statutory sick pay from first day of absence

Self-isolation and statutory sick pay from first day of absence

UPDATED 30 July – Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus, or is displaying symptoms, must now self-isolate for at least ten days, rather than seven.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020, introducing emergency measures for statutory sick pay in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In addition to the regulations that came into force on March 13 2020 (announcing that those who self-isolate with symptoms of coronavirus in accordance with NHS published guidance are now entitled to claim statutory sick pay), statutory sick pay can now be paid from the first day of absence – rather than from day four, which is currently the case. This is only applicable where an employee’s incapacity for work is related to coronavirus.

The current Public Health England guidance is as follows:

  • If someone has symptoms (a high temperature and/or new continuous cough and/or loss of smell or taste), however mild, and lives alone, they must self-isolate for ten days from the first day that the symptoms started.
  • If someone lives in a household and is the first to have symptoms, they must self-isolate for ten days. Everyone else in their household must self-isolate for 14 days.
  • If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, the person with the new symptoms must self-isolate for ten days. This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period.

Statutory sick pay

In addition to the above categories of people who will now be entitled to statutory sick pay, an amendment to the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 provided that statutory sick pay is also payable to those who are not sick, but who are shielding because of a Government notification to say that they are in a ‘vulnerable’ category. The regulations detail that the entitlement to statutory sick pay will end when the shielding period ends.

In addition, statutory sick pay is also to be paid to individuals who self-isolate because they are in a linked household (or ‘bubble’) with someone who is displaying COVID-19 symptoms. Their entitlement will end if they or the person with symptoms receives a negative test for COVID-19.

Following new regulations that have come into effect on 28 May 2020 (The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2020), entitlement to statutory sick pay has been extended to those employees who have been told to isolate under the new test and trace regime, which also started in England on 28 May 2020.

If an employee has been diagnosed with coronavirus then they will be entitled to sick pay in the usual way.  

As an employer, what will these changes mean for my business?

Statutory sick pay is currently paid by and funded by the employer, but the new Act provides for any coronavirus-related statutory sick pay to be funded by the state, although this will still be paid by the employer.

Where employees are absent from work due to COVID-19, statutory sick pay is now payable from day one of the employee’s absence, where their incapacity to work is related to coronavirus.

Employers can claim for periods of sickness starting on or after:

  • 13 March 2020 - if the employee had coronavirus or the symptoms or is self-isolating because someone they live with has symptoms
  • 16 April 2020 - if the employee was shielding because of coronavirus

More information on claiming back statutory sick pay can be found on the gov.uk website.

Can we insist upon sick notes being provided by employees?

A sick note is not required for the first seven days of sickness absence. After that, employers can require a sick note from the employee’s GP. However, it’s sensible for businesses to use their discretion regarding employees being in a position to submit sick notes. In view of the Public Health England advice for individuals not to attend GP surgeries or hospitals with suspected cases of the virus, it may be that employees are unable to obtain a sick note. Therefore, it is advisable to exercise discretion and to not demand sick notes to evidence diagnosis or a period of self-isolation.

That said, on-line isolation notes can be used by employees to their employers to provide evidence that they have had to self-isolate.

What if an employee isn’t sick but needs to care for a sick or quarantined child or other dependent?

Employees are usually entitled to unpaid time off work to care for a dependent in an unexpected emergency. A child or other dependent who has been diagnosed with coronavirus would clearly fall into this category. Employees who need time off due to caring for dependents may also be eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (subject to the continued applicability of this scheme). 

Contact us

If you have any queries in relation to paying statutory sick pay, do not hesitate to contact a member of your local employment team.

As the furlough scheme starts to gradually wind down, and the restrictions around social distancing continue, you’ll also need to consider what adjustments need to be made before bringing your employees back into the workplace. Our guide to recovery and resilience addresses those key people-related questions, challenges and opportunities.

From inspirational SHMA Talks to informative webinars, we also have lots of educational and entertaining content for life and business. Visit SHMA® ON DEMAND.

Our free legal helpline offers bespoke guidance on a range of subjects, from employment and general business matters through to director’s responsibilities, insolvency, restructuring, funding and disputes. We also have a team of experts on hand for any queries on family and private matters too. Available from 10am-12pm Monday to Friday, call 0800 689 4064.

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