What are the legal obligations for self-isolating and reporting cases of COVID-19?

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New laws stipulate that people in England will be required by law to self-isolate if they test positive or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace. Here, the NFU's specialist advisers have set out what this means for employers:

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 has made it a legal requirement to self-isolate where:

  • The employee has tested positive for COVID-19 or been advised to self-isolate via the Track and Trace service
  • The employee has returned to the UK from one of the countries which is not currently on the list of exempt countries or does not meet the criteria for a specific profession or industry such as seasonal agricultural workers

In these circumstances the employer is liable to a fine starting at £1,000, if they allow or coerce an employee (including an agency worker) to attend work, contrary to the legal requirement to self-isolate. Therefore the employer must send the employee home immediately, advising them they must not come into work for the duration of the applicable isolation period. Unless the employee can work from home, the employer must pay statutory sick pay or contractual sick pay where eligible, as the employee is treated as being unfit to work. Self-isolation due to travel from another international country will not qualify for any sick pay.

The same legislation has made it a statutory duty for an employee (and a worker) to notify their employer that they are required to self-isolate in accordance with the above legal requirements. An employer should ensure that they have informed all their employees of this legal duty to report, together with the consequences that a failure to report may lead to disciplinary action. Please contact CallFirst on 0370 840 0234, prior to taking any disciplinary action and certainly before deciding to dismiss.

The new legislation does not apply to the other occasions where individuals are advised to self-isolate, such as when they or someone else in their household or support bubble has symptoms but has not yet been tested. Government guidance should still be followed and for more information on self-isolating please see the NHS website and also our Q&A, Coronavirus: Advice for employers from the NFU's Specialist Advice Team

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