Many people say that they are 'self-isolating' and do so for different reasons.
In the world of benefits special rules apply to someone who is 'self-isolating' so it is important to understand what exactly it means.
At the moment, the government is advising ‘social distancing’ for everyone - but this is not the same as ‘self-isolation’.
It is also different from 'shielding'- click here to find out more about 'shielding'.
Those who are classed as ‘self-isolating’ for benefit purposes are those who:
- Have been notified that they have had contact with a person with coronavirus, and are self-isolating for 14 days from the latest date on which that contact occurred, or a date specified in the latest notification. (From 28th May 2020).
- are or someone they live with has coronavirus symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus
- have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they’ve been in contact with someone with coronavirus
- have someone in their linked household (or your ‘extended household’ if you live in Scotland or Wales) who has symptoms or has tested positive for coronavirus
- have been advised by a doctor or clinician to self-isolate before being admitted to hospital for surgery
What about those employees who have been told by their employer not to go into work but who have not been designated as a furloughed employee?
Where an employer has concerns about a non-symptomatic employee (for example, an employee who has recently returned from abroad but is not required to self-isolate but is displaying no symptoms) then they may wish to play it safe and request that the employee stays at home for a short period of time as a precautionary measure.
Where an employer chooses to suspend employees just as a precaution, then whether the employee will have to be on full pay will depend on whether their the contract gives their employer the right to suspend without pay for this reason. Alternatively the employer may try to agree a period of annual leave with the employee to cover the absence, or a period of homeworking where feasible.
What about those employees who have chosen not to go into work due to the need to 'social distance'?
'Social distancing is not the same as 'self-isolation'. We are all being asked to 'social distance'.
If an employee is worried about catching the virus and so refuses to attend work, ACAS is suggesting that employers listen to the employee’s concerns and offer reassurance explaining what steps they have taken to protect their health and safety. If the employee still refuses to come to work, the employer may be able to offer a period of paid annual leave or unpaid leave, or allow the employee to work from home where this is feasible. Where an employee requires further advice they can contact ACAS (or in Northern Ireland, Labour Relations Agency).
It is unclear whether, if the employee is unable to undertake any work, the employer is able to register them as a 'furloughed worker'.
Measures have also been put in place for employees to obtain medical evidence from NHS 111 rather than their own GP. 'Isolation notes' will provide them with the evidence that their employer needs to be able to pay Statutory Sick Pay (assuming the worker meets the qualifying criteria).
Also if someone has been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they’ve come into contact with someone with coronavirus, that notification is proof.
Test and Trace Support payment
Following a short pilot of a Self-Isolation Payment in Blackburn with Darwen, Pendle and Oldham, the government have introduced a Test and Trace Support Payment. for workers (employed or self-employed) getting certain benefits who have tested positive for Covid -19 or been asked to self-isolate, and who are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result.