Updated Guidance - Self-Isolation and Employers’ Duties
On 28th September 2020 the Government brought into force the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 (the “Regulations”) in the wake of the tightening of measures in response to the ongoing pandemic.
What do these Regulations say?
In essence, from 28th September 2020 people in England are required by law to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus, or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, and employers must not allow them to attend the workplace.
The Regulations require any person who has been notified of a positive test for coronavirus, and any close contacts of that person after 28th September 2020, to self-isolate for a period of at least 10 days from either:
- the date when symptoms started if they are symptomatic; or
- if they are not experiencing symptoms, the date that they took the test; or
- the date that they were contacted and notified that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
If an asymptomatic person is self-isolating and starts to develop symptoms during the isolation period, they will be required to re-start their 10 day isolation from the day the symptoms began.
If that person lives with others, all those other household members must stay at home and self-isolate for a period 14 days. The 14 day period starts from the day when the first person in the household became ill or from the date that their test was taken.
These Regulations go a step further than the previous guidance issued by the government in that it has been placed into legislation.
Failure to comply with the Regulations could therefore mean that an offence has been committed (by an employer or an employee) and could result in a fixed penalty notice being issued as a result.
The Regulations state that where a fixed penalty notice is issued:
- If it is the first fixed penalty notice issued to that person under these Regulations, the fine will be £1,000.
- The second fixed penalty notice will be £2,000.
- The third fixed penalty notice is £4,000.
- If a fourth fixed penalty notice is issued or for any subsequent fixed penalty notice, the fine will be £10,000.
- Where a person contravenes the Regulations knowingly, and then comes into close contact with another person or group or is reckless as to the consequences of their actions, the first fixed penalty notice is £4,000 and any subsequent fixed penalty notice issued is £10,000.
What are employees’ / employers’ duties under the Regulations?
Section 8 of the Regulations states that if an employee is required to self-isolate, and they were meant to be at work during their period of isolation, that employee must notify their employer of the requirement to self-isolate, as well as providing the start and end dates for the period of isolation.
This information is to be provided to their employer as soon as practicable and certainly before the employee was next due to start work during the isolation period.
From an employer’s perspective, Section 7 of the Regulations makes it clear that where they have been notified that one of their employees is self-isolating, the employer must not knowingly allow that person to attend any place other than where that person should be isolating.
So what practical steps should employers take in light of these Regulations?
- Take steps to ensure that your employees and in particular line managers are aware of the Government guidance and Regulations with regard to the requirement to self-isolate in certain circumstances.
- Ensure that employees understand the need to notify their employer as soon as reasonably practicable if they need to self-isolate.
- If notified that an employee needs to self-isolate, ensure that that person is not required to come into the workplace and if possible, either:
- Ensure that that person is able to work from home;
- Perhaps provide that person with an alternative role such that they can work from home; or
- If they are not able to work from home or undertake an alternative role that allow them to work from home, the existing legislation confirms that that employee is entitled to statutory sick pay for that period of isolation.
Should you have any queries or issues surrounding employer/employee concerns about self-isolating or have any other health and safety queries, please do not hesitate to contact the employment team at Prettys.