With the government’s generally bungled response to the COVID crisis, it’s important that where we do have rights – and our employers have obligations – to ensure we do everything we can to keep ourselves, our workmates, and our families safe.
In the past week, the government has released policies outlining both how employers should handle employees who are self-isolating as well as the financial support available to those employees.
It is now illegal to be made to return to work if self-isolating due to COVID-19. Employers cannot encourage or coerce employees to come in to work, and must communicate and provide alternative home-based work where possible, if you’re well enough to work. If you are unable to work from home Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) must be provided from your first day of absence if you’ve used up sick and holiday pay. You do not need a positive test and your employer cannot make you get tested. Your employer also cannot require a track & trace reference number as proof.
Employees can ‘self-certify’ for the first 7 days off work, following their workplace process, but don’t have to get a note from a doctor or NHS 111. If you are self-isolating for more than 7 days you can get an online self-isolation note from the NHS website or NHS mobile phone app (NOT the track and trace app).
There may be additional financial support available, a £500 lump sum payment for those on low incomes, if they cannot work during their self-isolation period. It’s unclear how hard these grants are to get and people deemed not eligible for public funds are excluded from this scheme and self-employed are told: ‘you must continue to work from home if you can’ which may be impossible especially for the falsely self employed. Normally you need to be on some kind of government financial support, but even if you’re not you can apply if you’re on a low wage and face financial hardship. You must have a test & trace reference number to apply for this grant. Grant applications are made via your local council. This payment is subject to income tax but will not affect any Universal Credit or other benefit payments you may currently be receiving.