The spread of Covid-19 poses significant challenges for both employers and employees in respect to sickness absence policies and keeping a business running efficiently. The government’s policy on this and the publication of ACAS guidelines are clear. Both employers and employees have a responsibility to try to minimise the spread and to protect individuals who are particularly vulnerable to the virus; those with pre-existing conditions, especially those who are older and those with cancer, diabetes, heart disease and lung conditions such as COPD and asthma. Here we need to consider that an employee has a duty of care to him or herself to have due regard to their own health and safety and the employer has to consider this as part of their duty or care in respect of the health and safety of their employees.
It is clear from the initial guidance that where an employee has been advised to self-isolate by a doctor or in a phone call with 111 that employee should receive at least Statutory Sick Pay from day one. Since the initial guidance was given, self-isolation no longer needs to be on the advice of either a GP or 111 for the individual to be enitled to self-isolate. Also, the scope of the guidance on who should self-isolate has been extended to those within a household where a fellow occupant is displaying symptoms - the advice on self-isolation is likely to extend further to those in 'vulnerable groups' (e.g. those over the age of 70 and those on the NHS 'flu list). Anyone eligible to receive SSP who self-isolates in accordance with Government guidelines is entitled to receive it.
If an employee is able to work from home during such period of self-isolation, he or she should receive normal pay. Such arrangements should naturally not apply to an otherwise healthy employee who is at low-risk and is merely ‘frightened’ of contracting the virus, although where possible, such employees should be encouraged to work from home.
The ACAS guidelines on this can be found by following this link.