Today new Regulations came into force in England which impose, potentially, large fines for employers who allow staff who are self isolating to work anywhere other than their homes.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Self Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 are complex and set out rules that apply to individuals as well as to employers.

Essentially, if someone tests positive for coronavirus or is told to self isolate by the Track and Trace Service or by other public health officials (but not via the new app) they must remain at home for the 'required period'. Generally, anyone who tests positive must remain at home for at least 10 days. However, if you are self isolating because you have been in close contact with someone with the disease, or are in quarantine, the period is 14 days.

There are a number of exceptions to the requirement to stay at home including:

  • To obtain groceries, medicines etc 'where it is not possible to obtain these provisions in any other manner'
  • To seek medical attention (including opticians, dentists etc)
  • To fulfil a legal obligation, including attending court  or participating in legal proceedings

Employers must pay SSP to anyone who is self isolating (unless they are quarantined after returning to the UK) who can't work from home. However, individuals who are on a low income may be entitled to a one-off payment of £500 through the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme. To be eligible, they have to claim at least one of the following benefits: Universal Credit, Working Tax Credits, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Housing Benefit.

Rules for employers

Under Regulation 7, if you know that a member of your staff (including an agency worker) is self isolating, you must not allow them to work - unless they can work from home - during their isolation period.  

Employees who are told to self isolate must tell their employer of the date they started their self isolation and when they expect it to end. They have to do this 'as soon as is reasonably practicable'  and no later than they are due to start work. The only exception is where they are already working from home.  

Agency workers can notify their work agency, principal or employer (if this is a different person/organisation). Whoever is notified, has to pass on the information to a relevant person. So, if the agency worker notifies their principal they have tested positive for coronavirus, the principal has to notify the job agency.

Penalties for breaching the rules

Individuals and employers can be fined if they breach the rules. Fines start at £1k for a first offence, £2k for a second, £4k for a third and £10k for repeated offences.

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