COVID-19: What happens if I need to self isolate?

Stay at home if you have either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new, continuous cough – this means you’ve started coughing repeatedly

If you live alone and have symptoms, stay at home for seven days from when your symptoms started.

If you live with other people, you all need to at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.

If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, the NHS advises that you try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

PHE has provided information on what you should do if you’re asked to self-isolate.

You should let your employer know as soon as possible if you are not able to come into work, and maintain communication.

Travel advice

On 17 March, the government announced that it was advising against all non-essential travel anywhere in the world, initially for a period of 30 days.

This is partly because of the risk that people may not be able to return. Many countries are either closing their borders or implementing restrictive measures in response to the pandemic.

Many other countries and territories have introduced screening measures (temperature checks and health/travel questions) and entry restrictions at border crossings and transport hubs.

If you have recently been in a country affected by the virus you may need to be quarantined, or you may not be allowed to enter or travel through a third country.

The FCO is also advising all travel to a number of countries, cities and regions, and regularly updates its guidance.

Employers should tightly restrict any business travel and, if it is urgent, check the travel advice for the country being travelled to.

If you are being asked to travel on non-essential business then you should speak to your Prospect rep or contact us for further advice.

Sickness absence and sick pay

If you are an employee, your workplace’s usual sick leave and pay entitlements will apply if you are ill. After seven days’ sickness absence, you may be required to provide your employer with a medical certificate from your GP, which is generally known as the fit note. However, the government has asked employers to be flexible on this point, as it may not be possible for employees in isolation to obtain such evidence.

The government has said it will introduce a temporary alternative to the fit note which will enable people who are advised to self-isolate to obtain a notification via NHS 111.

The government has said that people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are unable to work because they are self-isolating will qualify for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), even if they are not ill.

SSP is £94.25 per week. Currently, you do not receive anything for the first three days of absence, although the government has said it will change this so workers receive SSP from the first day of absence.

Many employers’ sick pay schemes are better than SSP. Employees may not qualify for their employer’s scheme if they are told to self-isolate despite not being ill. However, it is good practice for employers to treat this as sick leave and follow the usual sick pay policy.

If you have been asked by a medical expert to self-isolate, but do not qualify for your employer’s sick pay arrangements, you should still be able to receive SSP from your employer.

If you are affected and have concerns about your employer’s sick pay policy, you should speak to your Prospect rep or contact us for further advice.

If an employee is not sick but their employer tells them not to come into work – for instance, if they have closed an office – they should get their usual pay. However, an employer’s obligations will depend on the contractual terms in place.

Unless you have the permission of your employer you should not stay away from work. Nevertheless, employers should listen to and respond appropriately and sensitively to the concerns of staff. For example, the employer could offer flexible working where possible, such as homeworking.

If you still don’t want to go in to work, you may be able to arrange to take the time off as holiday.

The self employed

The legal distinction between employee, worker and self-employed is not always clear, so if in doubt you should seek advice from Prospect.

Unfortunately, the genuinely self-employed are not entitled to SSP. You may be if you are classed as a worker. Many self-employed people take out insurance to cover any periods they cannot work due to an illness or for other reasons. If you have such cover, you should check whether it will pay out in the eventuality that you are told to self-isolate, despite not being ill.

The government has also signalled that it will be made easier for workers not covered by sick pay to access Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit.

Get help

If you have further questions about this issue contact us for more help.