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With a rising R number for England, a number of new restrictions being put in place, the rule of six coming into effect and further measures likely, many employees are wondering where they stand in relation to SSP, self-isolation and the NHS Test and Trace system.

Below, are some frequently asked questions- answered.

When does someone have to self-isolate? How long do they need to self-isolate for?

According to Government guidance, people are required to self-isolate if they:

  • Have received a positive test result for COVID-19. 14 days self-isolation(SI);
  • Have any coronavirus symptoms – e.g. a high temperature, persistent cough, etc. Minimum 10 days self-isolation.
  • Live with someone or someone in their support bubble who has tested positive for Covid-19 or is displaying symptoms. 14 days SI;
  • NHS Test and Trace has informed the person to self-isolate-14 days SI; or
  • They arrive back from a country which is not on the travel corridor list and have to quarantine-14 days SI.

Should employees who are self-isolating receive SSP?

If an employee has to self-isolate and they are unable to work from home (if they can work effectively from home, and do, they will receive normal pay), then they may be entitled to SSP, provided they meet one of the following conditions:

  • The employee, someone they live with, or someone in their support bubble has Covid-19 symptoms or has tested positive;
  • They have been notified via the NHS Test and Trace system that they have been in contact with someone with the coronavirus;
  • They have been told by a doctor or medical professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for a surgical procedure; or
  • They have been advised to take extra precautions as they are at a very high risk of severe illness from Covid-19, e.g. they are shielding.

SSP is payable for every day off work whilst self-isolating and the standard rules in relation to “waiting days” do not apply.

Those who have returned to the UK from a country not on the travel corridor list and subsequently have to self-isolate, are not eligible for SSP.

If an employee has to self-isolate, cannot work from home, but is well enough to work, they may prefer to use their paid annual leave entitlement instead of claiming SSP, if the employer agrees to this.

If an employee receives a positive Covid-19 test do they have to tell their employer?

An employee is obligated to tell their employer if they have tested positive for the coronavirus and should inform them as soon as practicable, once they have received the test result. Employees should provide their employer with a copy of their positive test result and keep them updated if they need to be off work for longer than two weeks.

Can an employee who receives a negative Covid-19 test result return to work straight away?

Yes, assuming:

  • Everyone who lives with the employee, who has symptoms, has tested negative;
  • Everyone in their support bubble, who has symptoms, tests negative;
  • They have not been told to self-isolate for 14 days by NHS Test and Trace; or
  • They feel well enough to return to work.

In all circumstances, a person should speak to their employer before returning to the workplace.

What does a business need to do if there is more than one case of Covid-19 in the workplace?

If there is more than one confirmed case of coronavirus in the workplace, the employer should contact their local health protection team to report the suspected outbreak.

The local health protection team will then:

  • Undertake a risk assessment;
  • Provide public health advice; and
  • Where necessary, establish a multi-agency incident management team to manage the outbreak.

What happens if an employee has a child who has to self-isolate?

If an employee’s dependent child has been told to self-isolate as the child has tested positive for Covid-19 or is displaying coronavirus symptoms, the employee will need to self-isolate for 14 days (the child will need to self-isolate for 10 days). Whilst in isolation, if the parent or guardian of the child then starts displaying Covid-19 symptoms, they will need to stay at home for at least 10 days from when their symptoms began, irrespective of what day they are on in their original period of self-isolation.

If a child is sent home from nursery or school due to another child in their bubble having tested positive for Covid-19, then the child will most likely have to have a test themselves. However, even if the test results are negative, it is not known whether the child will need to self-isolate or not. Regardless, the child’s parents/guardians/family will not have to self-isolate, unless the child or someone else in the household starts displaying Covid-19 symptoms or receives a positive test).

A parent or guardian is entitled to take a reasonable amount of emergency time off work without pay to make arrangements for care of their child (or a spouse, partner, grandchild, parent or someone else who depends on them for care).

The other option for a parent/guardian is to use some of their annual leave entitlement.

Does a business need to inform all of its workers if a staff member has tested positive for Covid-19?

Employers should keep their staff informed about Covid-19 cases among their colleagues but they should do so without naming the individual. If an employee has tested positive and their work colleagues are at risk due to close contact with them, then the co-worker will be notified to self-isolate by the NHS Test and Trace service.

Under Government guidance, employees who have tested positive are encouraged to “consider asking their employer to alert co-workers with whom they have been in close contact” prior to them receiving their test results. Additionally, someone who tests positive is advised to “consider alerting people who you do not live with and have had close contact within the last 48 hours to let them know you have symptoms of Covid-19”.

However, in the main, employers should only inform those who need to know that their colleague has contracted the virus and provide them with the minimum amount of personal information of the person with Covid-19 in order to keep them safe.