Self-Isolation and Sick Pay
Social media is full of photographs of newly sprung home offices with #WorkingFromHome hashtags and for some, cats have quickly replaced colleagues.
If you can work from home then you should receive full pay to do so.
However, some of you will be facing a different reality. One thing is absolute, you must not attend your place of work if you have symptoms of coronavirus, regardless of how mild your symptoms are or what your employer urges you to do.
Instead, the government has ordered that you must stay at home and that you must not leave your house for 7 days counting from the first day when your symptoms started. This has been commonly termed ‘self-isolation’.
Similarly, if someone who you live with is self-isolating because they have symptoms, you must not attend your place of work
Instead, you must also self-isolate for 14 days. For example, if your housemate started self-isolating on 1st March then you should self-isolate until 15th March.
In both scenarios, it is vital that you inform your employer at the first opportunity that you cannot attend work and that any sickness absence procedure is followed. For example, if you would normally have to fill in a sickness absence form and return it to HR, then follow this procedure for self-isolation as well. In addition, provide as much supporting evidence as possible.
For example, you can get an ‘isolation note’ for your employer by visiting 111.nhs.uk/covid-19. If you cannot access this, call 111 and keep a record of your call and note down any advice. The waiting time maybe a couple of hours to speak with 111 so you may choose to ask your employer whether they will accept some other form of evidence instead.
If you may have been advised by your doctor to self-isolate.
Alternatively, you may have been advised by your doctor to self-isolate because you are particularly vulnerable. Again, you should evidence this to your employer and follow any sickness absence procedures accordingly.
Check your contract for a sickness guidance
In terms of your entitlement to sick pay, in the first instance, you should always check your contract for a sickness policy and carefully read any sick pay provisions. If you do not have a copy of your contract then request one. Your contractual sick pay might only be paid to you where you are actually sick (i.e. suffering from coronavirus symptoms which prevent you from attending work) rather than simply self-isolating because someone else in your household is exhibiting symptoms.
If your employer is the one who has insisted you self-isolate
However, if it is neither of these and your employer is the one who has insisted you self-isolate, for example, because you recently returned from Italy or China, then you are entitled to receive your full pay.
If you do not have a contract which affords you sick pay or if your contract merely states that you will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (‘SSP’), then that is what you will have to claim. It is worth mentioning that you cannot claim both. For example, if you usually get £500, per week and your contract states that you will receive full pay whilst off sick, you cannot then claim SSP on top of this.
SSP is available from the first day for every employee who has to self-isolate, for the reasons set out above, providing the following criteria are satisfied:
1. You are self-isolating;
2. You are an ‘employee’ or ‘agency worker’ and have done some work for your employer;
3. You earn an average of at least £118, per week;
4. You tell your employer you’re sick before their deadline (within 7 days if they don’t have one);
5. You have not already received the maximum amount of SSP (28 weeks); and
6. You are not receiving Statutory Maternity Pay.
Statutory Sick pay
If you are eligible for SSP then you will receive £94.25 a week from the first day that you self-isolate (providing it’s on or after 13th March). You will be paid in the way you are normally paid (e.g. monthly) subject to tax and N.I deductions.
If your employer tries to force you to work
If you have to self-isolate but your employer tries to force you to work then you should refuse and state your reasons for doing so in the form of a written record. For example, email or text them from your personal email or phone. You should explain that you are following the government advice set out by Public Health England to self-isolate.
If you are threatened with or actually dismissed because you have had to self-isolate and your health and safety concerns have been ignored by your employer, then you could potentially bring a claim for automatic unfair dismissal under the whistleblowing provisions and/or unfair dismissal including constructive dismissal. Contact us for further advice if it happens to you.
If you would like further information on Sick Pay then you can visit the ACAS website here https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/self-isolation-and-sick-pay. ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) is an independent government body which was put in place to advise the public on their employment rights’.
If your employer is refusing to pay you sick pay, you should visit ACAS’ website or contact them on 0300 123 1100 for further guidance.