Self Isolation Now Mandatory
Self Isolation becomes a legal duty from today (Monday 28 September) for people across England, to ensure compliance and reduce spread of Coronavirus.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 were made on Sunday 27 September 2020 and came into force on Monday 28 September 2020 (in England only). The Regulations set out mandatory periods for self-isolation if a person tests positive or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace and a duty to notify the Secretary of State of the names of people in the same household as anyone who has tested positive for Covid-19. The Regulations also make breach of the duty to self isolate a criminal offence.
The important element for employers is regulation 7. This makes it an offence for an employer to knowingly permit a worker (including an agency worker) to attend any place other than where the individual is self-isolating. This includes individuals who are required to self-isolate because they live with someone who has tested positive. So if an employer knows a worker has tested positive (or lives with someone who has tested positive), it is now responsible for stopping the worker from working (unless they can work from home). Any employer who fails to do so will face a fine, starting at £1,000 and rising to £10,000 for repeat offences.
Regulation 8 also place an obligation on the worker to tell their employer that they are self-isolating. Any individual who breaches self-isolation will, normally, commit a separate criminal offence.
It is important to appreciate that the obligations imposed by the Regulations apply not just to “traditional” employees but also to workers and agency workers.
A number of steps will be taken to make sure that people are complying with the rules, these include:
- NHS Test and Trace call handlers making regular contact with those self-isolating, with the ability to escalate any suspicion of non-compliance to Local Authorities and local police;
- Using police resources to check compliance in highest incidence areas and in high-risk groups, based on local intelligence;
- Investigating and prosecuting high-profile and egregious cases of non-compliance; and
- Acting on instances where third parties have identified others who have tested positive, but are not self-isolating.
The NHS Test and Trace app is a free download.
Who Should Self Isolate?
Regulation 2 establishes a legal obligation to self-isolate in broad terms where an individual has been told by an authorised person (such as a doctor or NHS or local authority employee) that they have either:
- tested positive for COVID-19 as a result of a test conducted after 28 September 2020; or
- have, after 28 September 2020, come into close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
The Regulations prescribe not only the place at which a person who is required to self-isolate is to remain but also the limited circumstances in which they are permitted to leave the place at which they are self-isolating.
How Long Does Self Isolation Last?
If someone receives a positive test result, they are now required by law to self-isolate for the period ending 10 days after displaying symptoms or after the date of the test, if they did not have symptoms. Other members of their household must self-isolate for the period ending 14 days after symptom onset, or after the date of the initial person’s positive test.
If someone is instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, because they have had close contact with someone outside their household who has tested positive, they are legally required to self-isolate for the period notified by NHS Test and Trace. Both household and non-household contacts must self-isolate for the full period, regardless of whether they have symptoms and, if they develop symptoms and take a test, regardless of whether any test taken gives a negative result.
Obligation On Workers To Notify Their Employer
Regulation 8 places an obligation on the worker to tell their employer that they are self-isolating.
This notification obligation applies where a self-isolating worker is aware of the requirement to self-isolate and is due to work or perform the activities related to their employment at a place other than the place where they are required to self–isolate. In those circumstances, the worker must inform their employer of the fact that they are self-isolating, together with the start and end date of the period of self-isolation, as soon as practicable and in any event before the worker is next due to start work within the period for which they are required to self-isolate.
Obligation On Employer
Where an employer is aware that a worker is requirement to self-isolate, the employer must not knowingly allow the worker to attend any place other than the place at which they are required to self-isolate during the period for which they are required to self-isolate.
Test and Trace Support Payment
Those on lower incomes who are required by law to self-isolate from 28 September 2020 and cannot work from home while self-isolating are eligible for a new £500 Test and Trace Support Payment
Recognising that self isolation is one of the most powerful tools for controlling the transmission of Coronavirus, this new Test and Trace Support payment of £500 will ensure that those on low incomes are able to self-isolate without worry about their finances.
Local Authorities will be working quickly to set up these self-isolation support schemes and we expect them to be in place by 12 October. Those who start to self isolate from 28 September will receive backdated payments once the scheme is set up in their Local Authority.
Individuals will receive this payment on top of any Statutory Sick Pay or benefits they receive. Currently individuals in employment who are self isolating and cannot work from home are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they earn more than £120 a week from a single employer. Depending on their circumstances, they might also be able to claim Universal Credit and/ or new style Employment and Support Allowance.
The criteria for the self isolation payment is:
- have been instructed to self isolate by NHS Test and Trace, either because they’ve tested positive or are the close contact of a positive case;
- are employed or self-employed;
- are unable to work from home and will lose income as a result;
- are currently receiving Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit.
Councils will also have discretion to make payments to those who don’t receive the qualifying benefits, but are on a low income and could suffer financial hardship as a result of not being able to work.
Criminal Offences and Fines
It is an offence to contravene the obligations of Regulations 7 and 8 “without reasonable excuse.” Both a worker failing to notify their employer as required under Regulation 8 and an employer which allows the worker to breach their self-isolation obligation in connection with their work will be committing a criminal offence unless a reasonable excuse can be established.
The Fixed Penalty Fines which can be issued to an individual committing an offence under Regulation 7 and 8 are:
- £50 for an employee who fails to inform their employer that they have been advised to self-isolate
- £1,000 for misinforming the Test and Trace service about close contacts
- £1,000 for anyone who leaves self isolation – bringing this in line with the penalty for breaking quarantine after international travel.
- £4,000 for anyone who ‘recklessly’ leaves self isolation
The Fixed Penalty Fine could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and for the most serious breaches, including for those preventing others from self isolating.
Employers who force, encourage or allow staff to break a period of self isolation by coming to work will be liable for fines of up to £10,000 and prosection, sending a clear message that this will not be tolerated. Where the offence is proved to have been committed with the consent or collusion of, or is attributable to the neglect of an officer, the criminal liability can attach to the business as aswell as it’s officers. For these purposes, an ‘officer’ is defined more broadly than just company law directors and encompasses any director, manager, secretary or similar officer.
The Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock said that further measures would be introduced if cases continue to rise.
Template Letter Confirming Mandatory Self-isolation
My Template Letter Confirming Mandatory Self-isolation notifies your employees that is is against the law for them to attend work if they are self-isolating and reminds them that they have a duty to notify you if they are self-isolating. The letter should be sent to all employees, including those who have been furloughed as they may not realise they need to report to you that they are self-isolating.
To download the Template Letter Confirming Mandatory Self Isolation complete your details below and an email containing the document will find it’s way to your inbox: