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Under this scheme anyone who’s been in close contact with a person who’s tested positive for coronavirus will be traced and notified that they should self-isolate at home for 14 days with immediate effect. If an employee is contacted by the test and trace service and advised to self-isolate, what are their rights in relation to pay? Assuming the employee is able to undertake their normal job role at home during the period of self-isolation, which is likely if they don’t have any symptoms, then they will be entitled to receive full pay. Where they can’t carry out their normal job role from home, there are several options available.
Firstly, even if they don’t have any coronavirus symptoms, the employee would be entitled to receive statutory sick pay (SSP) for the duration of their 14-day self-isolation period. If an employer has less than 250 employees, it can reclaim this payment from HMRC. This is because the government has now extended the SSP rules to cover this specific self-isolation situation and allowed employers to reclaim SSP in certain circumstances. The practical difficulty here though is that SSP is currently paid at a rate of £95.85 p.w. This is a lot less than many employees would normally earn. As the advised 14-day self-isolation period under the test and trace scheme is presently voluntary only and its obvious that there may be employees wanting to come to work to receive full pay instead of staying at home. This is a particularly likely if the employee isn’t showing any coronavirus symptoms. However, even if the employee is symptom free, their presence could potentially put the workplace and other staff at risk.
In order to encourage self-isolation, an employer could offer the employee the option of taking annual leave on full pay. The test and trace guidance for employers says this is acceptable. Alternatively, the employee could be paid in full to remain at home during the self-isolation period but clearly this approach would need to be applied to all those contacted by the test and trace scheme. It would be ill-advised to pay some staff at the employer’s discretion, yet insist that others receive SSP only or take annual leave. If an employer takes this approach and subsequently discovered that an employee had lied about being contacted by the test and trace system to get two weeks at home on full pay, the employer would have grounds for disciplinary action.
Where an employee is able to work from home during the 14-day self-isolation period, they will be entitled to receive full pay. If this isn’t possible, they can either be paid SSP, encouraged to take annual leave or be paid in full at the employer’s discretion. Do be aware that self-isolation under the test and trace scheme is advised, it isn’t currently mandatory.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor. Please contact our Employment team at Cleaver Fulton Rankin for further advice or information.