From the 1st April the legal requirement to self isolate, following a positive test, came to an end and free mass lateral flow testing was stopped. The public was then asked that anyone showing Covid symptoms should “exercise personal responsibility”. Although the latest guidance on Covid in the workplace is to leave matters to individual discretion this became somewhat confusing to employers and employees alike as the grey area between a legal and moral obligation combine.
If an employee tests positive for Covid
If employees test positive for COVID-19 employers should, in most cases, tell employees to self-isolate for at least five days or until they test negative. It is particularly important to avoid close contact with anyone who is at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell if they are infected with COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, especially those whose immune system means that they are at higher risk of serious illness, despite vaccination. As an employer, you must assess all your staffs needs and should keep the long-term health of employees in mind alongside current concerns.
Employers must implement policies about what happens when a member of staff tests positive and take responsibility for implementing mitigations that are appropriate for their workplace and find their own strategies for managing risk. Clear and precise policies ensure there is no confusion.
Statutory sick pay rules
The rules around Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for self-isolation for coronavirus (COVID-19) changed on 24 March 2022: staff are no longer entitled to SSP for self-isolation, unless they’re not well and are off sick. SSP is no longer paid from the first day of absence. If employers require self-isolation of staff who say they are not ill and available to work, then employers will have to pay them in full (because the employer is preventing them from coming in) unless there is work which can be done from home.
There’s no law that says staff must be tested for coronavirus (COVID-19), but some employers might want to bring in testing as part of their workplace policy to reduce length of absences and manage risk to other staff.
Childcare advice for employees
Although we are all hopeful of no further school closures, children are still being advised to isolate for 3 days if positive which can present some childcare issues. If an employee has no childcare available, it is reasonable to ask their employer to allow them to work from home. Their employer still has the right to expect them to be willing and able to carry out your work duties while working from home.
Unpaid time off for dependants
Employees have the right to take unpaid time off for dependants which usually lasts only for a short time to organise their care. This period of unpaid leave enables employees to take action necessary because of an unexpected disruption or termination of arrangements for the care of that dependant. This would cover time off to arrange alternative childcare but does not cover extended time off for employees to look after their children themselves.
There’s no law that says people must have the COVID-19 vaccine but employers should support staff in getting it. Some employers might want to agree a vaccine policy for their organisation.
For further information on the latest guidance for Covid in the workplace and any other HR issues, please contact us here.