Profile information Account settings
Logout
Sign up Log in

Managing staff absence during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having an unprecedented effect on working life and in particular, has led to high rates of absenteeism among staff. Read on to find out more about managing staff absence in light of the global health pandemic.

Last reviewed 3 October 2022.

Absence 

If an employee cannot attend work due to sickness, they are usually required to inform their line manager (or other designated person as set out in your Sickness policy) before they are due to start work (or as soon as possible if this is not practical). For sickness absences of more than 7 continuous days employees must provide medical evidence (ie a fit note from a medical practitioner. For absences of less than 7 days, employees can self-certify their sickness absence (eg by using a Self-certification form).

Government guidance no longer requires people with Coronavirus (COVID-19) to self-isolate. However, in light of the ongoing pandemic, employees should consider staying at home and avoiding contact with other people if they develop symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19). If an employee is a close contact of someone with Coronavirus (COVID-19), they should consider staying home if going to work might risk infecting people at high risk of becoming severely ill if they contract Coronavirus (COVID-19). 

For more information, read the Government’s guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection including Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Pay

If eligible, employees would normally receive statutory sick pay (SSP) where:

  • they have a period of sickness absence from work of at least 4 calendar days in a row, and 

  • 3 'waiting days' (ie days on which they would usually be required to work) have passed

Alternatively, you may pay employees contractual sick pay as set out in their contracts of employment or our sickness policy.

Changing annual leave plans

During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, employees may change their minds about travelling (or will be unable to travel at all), and may wish to cancel or change annual leave that has already been booked. Employers may allow employees to cancel or change annual leave in limited circumstances (eg where their personal circumstances warrant it and the cancellation or change does not inconvenience the employer's business). However, in the context of the pandemic, employers may more frequently allow employees to change or cancel their leave. This decision will ultimately be left to the employees' line managers.

Employees may be required to take their leave as booked if their employer has arranged cover for them, or they have arranged shift patterns on the basis that they'll be on leave. 

Unused annual leave

Employees are required to take their holiday entitlement during the employer's relevant holiday year and either:

  • lose any unused annual leave not taken by the end of that holiday year, or

  • have any unused annual leave carried over into the following leave year 

As the pandemic may prevent employees from taking their annual leave during the relevant holiday year, you could agree to employees taking leave later.

In response to the pandemic, the Government amended the rules on carrying over annual leave. Under the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 at least 4 weeks (pro rata) of annual leave untaken due to Coronavirus (COVID-19) can be carried over into the next two leave years. 

This applies if staff could not take leave because they were:

  • sick with Coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • required to self-isolate

  • required to keep working due to requirements imposed by the pandemic

Staff may also be able to carry over holiday if they were furloughed and could not reasonably use the holiday in their holiday year.