With the lifting of lockdown restrictions from July 19, there is likely to be an increase in Covid-19 positive test results, increasing the number of staff who are self-isolating.
Between July 19 2021 and August 16 2021, it is a legal requirement to have your staff self-isolating if they test positive for Covid-19 or have been notified by Track and Trace to self-isolate.
This all means that employers are likely to encounter self-isolation of employees, if they have not already, so being aware of the options for you and your employees will help.
It will depend on the circumstances as to why staff are self-isolating as to whether you must pay them, the amount you will have to pay them and what you are able to claim back.
Can an employee work from home if they have tested positive for Covid-19 or have been told to self-isolate?
Yes. If an employee is well enough to work from home and can perform their role at home, there is no reason why they cannot do this and be paid as usual for their work.
Do I have to pay my employees Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?
Usual rules for SSP will apply relating to sickness unrelated to Covid-19.
In addition, if an employee would ordinarily be eligible for SSP, they’re self-isolating and off work for at least four days in a row (including usual non-working days), you must pay your employee SSP for every day they’re off work, if one or more of the following applies:
- They or someone they live with has symptoms of, or has tested positive for Covid-19
- They’ve been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they have had close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19
- Someone in their support bubble has symptoms of Covid-19, or has tested positive for Covid-19
- They’ve been advised by a medical professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery for up to 14 days
How much is SSP?
Eligible employees can claim SSP for their qualifying days at £96.35 per week and this can be claimed for a maximum of 28 weeks. Usually SSP is only available from the fourth qualifying day, but if your employee is off sick or self-isolating because of Covid-19 or has tested positive for COVID-19, from March 13 2020 you should pay SSP from the first qualifying day, as long as the employee is off for at least four consecutive days (including their non-working days).
Can I reclaim SSP back?
The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (CSSPRS) will repay SSP employers have already paid to current or former employees. Up to two weeks’ SSP can be reclaimed for each employee off sick, if the below is true:
- The employee had Covid-19 or were self-isolating
- The employee was shielding before April 1 2021 in England and Wales
- Your PAYE payroll scheme started on or before February 28 2020
- You had fewer than 250 employees on February 28 2020
You can make more than one claim per employee, but you cannot claim for more than two weeks in total.
You can claim SSP back under the CSSPRS using the online service.
Do I have to pay staff any other pay while they are self-isolating?
You should check your employee’s contract and your company’s sick pay or special leave policy to see whether your employee might be entitled to enhanced contractual or occupational sick pay.
Alternatively, if your employee is not able to work from home and receive full contractual pay, or does not qualify for SSP or contractual sick pay, you could offer that the employee takes any outstanding annual leave, so that they can be paid in full for that.
Also, if the employee is on a low income in these circumstances and are asked to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, they may be able to get a £500 Test and Trace support payment. Your employee can find out more information about this and how to apply.
If none of these options are available, you may have to offer unpaid leave.
Do I have to pay staff SSP if they’re self-isolating or in quarantine because they travelled abroad?
Employees or workers are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they’re in self-isolation or quarantine after travel abroad and they cannot work from home. You can choose to pay your employee at the same rate as SSP or higher if you wish, but you are not required to pay your employee unless they are able to work from home or take agreed annual leave for the time they cannot attend work.
Can I put staff who are self-isolating on furlough?
While short-term illness or self-isolation should not alone be a reason to furlough an employee, if you want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are off sick, you can do so and the employee would no longer receive sick pay, but would instead be classified as a furloughed employee. You can claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and CSSPRS for the same employee, as long as this is for different time periods.
You can decide to furlough employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus. You do not need to be facing a wider reduction in demand or be closed to claim under the CJRS for these individuals.
Given that the maximum statutory sick payment is £96.35 per week and the maximum furlough payment can be £2,500 per month and be claimed under the CJRS, this can be of great benefit to you and your employees until the end of September, when the CJRS will terminate.
What if my employee becomes sick while on furlough?
Furloughed employees have the same rights to SSP as if they had been working as usual. If they would otherwise be eligible apart from them being furloughed, you should pay the employee SSP if they are sick due to Covid-19 or anything else. It’s up to you whether to move a sick employee onto SSP or to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate. If you choose to move a furloughed employee onto SSP, you cannot claim under the CJRS for that employee over that time period and unless you can claim under the CSSPRS, your business will need to fund this SSP payment.
Remember, from August 16 2021, anyone who has close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 will no longer have to self-isolate if they have had both vaccinations. Instead, they can take a PCR test and only if they test positive themselves, will they need to self-isolate.
Calum Covell is senior marketing manager for Harper James Solicitors, the law firm for entrepreneurs