Employers and employees need to stick to the guidelines, say Kate Hodgkiss and Ross Jespersen
We should all be aware of the consequences of our actions, say Kate Hodgkiss and Ross Jespersen
As coronavirus restrictions either relax or are re-imposed, international travel increases and schools and other workplaces begin to resume, employers are advised to be prepared for periods where employees are required to self-isolate or quarantine.
UK Government guidelines require any individual with coronavirus symptoms, or who are part of a household where someone has symptoms, to self-isolate. Employees self-isolating will be unable to attend or perform their work, unless they are able to work from home.
So what payments are due to those unable to work from home? Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rules have been amended to apply in a wider range of circumstances during the crisis. Employees testing positive for coronavirus, or unable to work because they need to self-isolate, are entitled to SSP from day one of their absence.
For other sickness-related absences, eligibility for SSP starts on the fourth day of absence. Employees may also be entitled to enhanced sick pay depending on their employment contract. Employees don’t need the usual GP medical certificate for most workplace absences related to coronavirus, and instead can apply for an isolation note from the NHS website. From 1 September, employees and the self-employed in receipt of Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit were entitled to additional financial help up to £182 over the 14-day period should they have to self-isolate and are unable to work from home.
Some employers will be entitled to claim back up to two weeks’ SSP paid to employees because of coronavirus. The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme enables employers with 250 employees or less to recover two weeks of SSP paid to employees from 13 March 2020.
Self-isolation should be distinguished from post-travel quarantine, as employees quarantining aren’t entitled to SSP in the same way. This means unless they’re able to work from home, the employer is entitled to require them to take additional annual or unpaid leave to cover the days they are unable to work.
A further option is placing employees on furlough for the period they are unable to work, but this is only available to employees previously furloughed for at least three weeks before 30 June 2020. Employers should also be aware of reduced Government contributions to wages as the furlough scheme nears its end on 31 October.
Employers should be open about what they expect from employees and what employees can expect from them. As self-isolation becomes potentially more common, as confirmed cases rise, or employees need to remain home with children unable to go to school, employers should clarify what entitlements are available.
Any potential consequences resulting from travel which ends in quarantine should be particularly clear. Employers have a duty to protect employees and provide a safe environment at work, and should encourage employees to act responsibly and not do anything which might breach government guidelines.
In these strange times, it’s incumbent upon us all to be aware of the consequences of our actions. Employers should act sympathetically towards employees required to self-isolate or quarantine, as the effects are subject to changing government guidance. Likewise, employees should ensure they comply with their employers’ guidance regarding potential implications of quarantine following travel and their responsibilities to comply with self-isolation rules to protect those around them.
Kate Hodgkiss is Head of Employment and Ross Jespersen a Solicitor, for DLA Piper in Scotland.
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