Isolation Notes and Self-Isolation
Launch of Isolation Notes
With many employees struggling to acquire fit notes from their GP to certify absence from work due to self-isolation on grounds of suspected or, diagnosed Coronavirus, the Government has now launched brand new “Isolation Notes”.
The purpose of isolation notes are to provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to Coronavirus, either because they have symptoms of the virus or because they live with someone who has symptoms, and so cannot attend work for 14 days.
When an employee is absent from work, whether they are self-isolating of not an employee can self-certify for the first 7 days and don’t need any medical evidence for their employer. After the first 7 days of absence an employer can require evidence of sickness absence and now, an employee who is having to self-isolate can submit an isolation note to validate their absence. Self-isolation is required when someone’s absence is related to having symptoms of Coronavirus or because they live with someone who has symptoms.
The notes can be accessed through the NHS website and NHS 111 online here: https://111.nhs.uk/isolation-note/
Matt Hancock, the Health & Social Care Secretary, has said that if an employee does not have an email address, they can have the note sent to a trusted family member or friend, or directly to their employer. The service can also be used to generate an isolation note on behalf of someone else.
Self-Isolation: Current Guidance and Advice
What is self-isolation?
Self-isolating means staying at home and not leaving it, other than for exercise. This includes staying away from work.
Who should self-isolate?
Everyone who shows Coronavirus symptoms – a fever of above 37.8C, a persistent cough or breathing problem – and everyone who lives in the same house or flat as someone with symptoms is being advised to self-isolate.
If an employee lives alone, they must stay at home for seven days from the day symptoms start
If an employee, or someone who they live with, develop symptoms, the entire household needs to isolate for 14 days to monitor for signs of Covid-19.
If someone else in the employee’s household does become ill during that period, their seven-day isolation starts that day. For example, it might run from day three to day 10 – when that person’s isolation would then end. It would not restart if another member of the household fell ill
But anyone who fell ill in the employee’s household on day 13 would see their seven-day isolation begin then – for their illness rather than to monitor for symptoms – meaning they would be absent from work for 20 days.
Who shouldn’t attend work at all?
About 1.5 million people with very serious health conditions will be contacted by the NHS and urged not go out at all for at least 12 weeks. This is being referred to as shielding.
The most vulnerable group includes:
-Certain types of cancer patients
-Organ transplant patients
-People with certain genetic diseases
-People with serious respiratory conditions like cystic fibrosis and severe chronic bronchitis
-People receiving certain drug treatments which suppress the immune system
-Pregnant women with heart disease
They will be contacted with advice on how to manage their self-isolation, including getting supplies of essential food and medicines. Employees who are contacted in this regard, should notify their employers accordingly and employers should act reasonably and flexibly to ensure that measures are put in place to ensure that these employees are able to shield effectively.
Employees who are self-isolating or required to shield have a right to statutory sick pay, which is currently £94.25 a week and can be paid for up to 28 weeks. It’s normally paid from the fourth day of sickness. However, the Prime Minister has announced that it will be paid from the first day under emergency legislation.
Businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be able claim refunds for coronavirus-related statutory sick pay lasting up to 14 days.
Travel to high risk countries
The government’s previous advice on travel to high risk countries which required employees to self-isolate upon return for a period of 14 days has now been withdrawn.
If an employer wants to keep and employees away from the workplace if they’ve recently travelled to a risky area, even if they show no symptoms they can however, still do this. In this situation, as it will be the employer requiring the employee to stay away, the employer will still obligated to pay the employee’s normal salary at this time. If the employee can work from home, this could present the best option.
When an employee doesn’t want to come into work
In cases where an employee refuses to come into work because of coronavirus concerns, they are not entitled to SSP. If there is strong evidence to prove that they’re just trying to get out of coming to work, it could lead to disciplinary action. Employers should consider all employee requests to refrain from attending work and make suitable adjustments accordingly.