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13 Mar 2020

Statutory Sick Pay now applies for employees who self-isolate from coronavirus

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New regulations have come into force today (13 March 2020), which extend statutory sick pay (“SSP”) to employees who are self-isolating to prevent infection or contamination with COVID-19.  This follows the public health guidance issued yesterday.  SSP will still only apply from the fourth day of sickness until the proposed COVID-19 Bill is passed by Parliament.

What do the new regulations say?

The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 have extended the definition of ‘persons deemed incapable of work’ in the Statutory Sick Pay (General) Regulations 1982 to include a person who is:

“(i) isolating himself from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with [COVID-19], in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland or Public Health Wales and effective on 12th March 2020; and 
(ii) by reason of that isolation is unable to work”

What does the new “stay at home” guidance mean for affected employees?

Among other recommendations, the 12 March 2020 Public Health England “Stay at Home” guidance advises individuals to stay at home for 7 days if they have a new continuous cough and/or a high temperature.  Any affected employees would need to work from home if that is feasible, but if their isolation means they are unable to work then they will be entitled to SSP.  

What is next?

The new COVID-19 Bill will extend SSP to apply from day 1 of sickness (rather than day 4) for COVID-19 related absences. The COVID-19 Bill is due to be laid before Parliament next week, and we will update you when it comes into force.  It is not clear if it will apply retrospectively for SSP if an individual self-isolates based on yesterday’s “stay at home” guidance yesterday.

When public health guidance is updated to require further categories of people to self-isolate (e.g. people living with someone who has symptoms), it is expected that the SSP regulations will be further extended to cover those employees as well.  

Today’s change to the SSP regulations will last for eight months.

What should employers be doing?

We recommend employers review their company sick pay policies to check whether self-isolating employees will be covered by any enhanced sick pay, and when this enhanced pay will begin. Also, when recording sickness absence employers should note if it is connected to COVID-19 or not as this will impact on the SSP entitlement.  Employers with fewer than 250 employees should soon be able to reclaim from the Government up to 14 days of SSP that is paid in connection with COVID-19.

We issued guidance for employers dealing with COVID-19 issues yesterday. 

Our COVID-19 employment team are keeping up to date on the latest developments and are available to answer any questions you may have.  Please do get in touch.

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