If an employee cannot attend work due to sickness, they are usually required to inform their line manager before they are due to start work (or as soon as possible if this is not practical) and provide medical evidence (eg a sick note from their doctor) for sickness of more than 7 days.
In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, employees should not attend work and follow the government's guidance on self-isolation if they or anyone they live with develops:
- a fever, particularly a high temperature (ie a temperature of 37.8 degrees or over)
- a continuous cough, and/or
- a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste
From 16 August 2021 it will typically no longer be a legal requirement for individuals to self-isolate if they have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case if they have been fully vaccinated (or are under 18). If contacted about being a close contact, individuals should take a PCR test; they will not be required to self-isolate while they wait for test results.
It is still advised that precautions should be considered, including wearing face coverings and limiting contact with vulnerable individuals.
Following a positive PCR test result, individuals will be legally required to self-isolate irrespective of their vaccination status or age.
Health and social care staff in close contact cases will be able to routinely return to work, if they have a negative PCR test. However, they will need to take daily rapid lateral tests for 10 days.
Where staff work with clinically extremely vulnerable people, the designated person in the workplace needs to carry out risk assessments, before they return to work.
For more information read the NHS guidance.
For more than 7 days' absence, you could ask employees to provide you with an 'isolation note' from NHS 111, which can be obtained by completing a simple questionnaire. A letter from the NHS advising an employee to 'self-shield' because a serious underlying health condition means that they are at high risk is also sufficient evidence.
Make sure employees' contact details are up to date in the event that you need to reach them while they are in self-isolation.
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
Where absences relate to Coronavirus (COVID-19), SSP is payable from day 1 if an employee has been self-isolating for at least 4 days, however, this only applies if the first day of absence was on or after 13 March 2020.
Alternatively, you may pay employees contractual sick pay as set out in their contracts of employment.
As a temporary measure during the pandemic, you are expected to pay your employees if:
- you have asked them to stay away from the workplace and self-isolate
- they are self-isolating because they have symptoms
- they are self-isolating in response to medical advice from NHS 111, their doctor or a local health protection team