There has been conflicting advice for employees and employers regarding coronavirus in the UK and employment lawyer, Ross Pierrepont from Tallents Solicitors, offers some guidance on key employment questions being asked regarding preventative self-isolation.

UPDATE - 4th March 2020

Workers will get statutory sick pay from the first day off work, not the fourth, to help contain coronavirus, the prime minister has said.

I’ve been told to self-isolate. Will I get paid?

Legally, you are not entitled to statutory sick pay if you’re away from work and are not actually ill yourself.

However, if your job allows you to work productively from home while you are self-isolating, then you could come to an arrangement with your employer so that your pay is not affected during your time off.

Obviously, if your job requires you to be in a specific place to carry out your work, such as a shop or factory, then being at home could affect your pay, but each employer will have to treat this situation differently. Employers will have to apply their own discretion dependent on the industry they work in.

On 26th February 2020, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock sent guidance to UK employers telling them that staff who had been asked to self-isolate are entitled to take the time off as sick leave, saying in the House of Commons that it should be considered “sickness for employment purposes”.

Acas, the independent arbitration service has agreed with this advice and have said that it's "good practice" for an employer to treat it as sick leave or agree for the time to be taken as holiday "otherwise there's a risk the employee will come to work because they want to get paid," it says.

This is, however, only advice and not the law, and it should be stressed that if you have to self-isolate then there is no guarantee that you will be paid. 

My children have been told to self-isolate and I need to be at home to look after them. Will I get paid?

If you need to suddenly care for a minor who has been told to self-isolate, then you are entitled to ask your employer for time off to do so, although your employer is under no obligation to pay you if you are not working. Again, working from home might be an option to consider here.

I’ve been diagnosed with coronavirus. Will I get paid?

Anyone who is considered ‘high risk’ has a duty of care not to work and potentially infect fellow workers. If you are too sick to work, whether it’s the coronavirus or not, then you will qualify for statutory sick pay (SSP) as a minimum. Depending on your employment contract, your employer may also pay additional funds over and above this. A doctor’s note may be required as part of the qualification for SSP. 

I’m self-employed. What about me?

Unfortunately, there is no entitlement to SSP for the self-employed. However, if you are an agency worker or a casual worker, you may qualify and it’s best to ask your agency or employer directly.

Can I claim benefits?

If you are prevented from working because of a defined risk to public health, then you are able to claim Universal Credit through the usual routes.

At Tallents Solicitors, we understand that this is a confusing and fluid area of employment law to deal with, so our employment law specialists at Tallents are here to advise and support you on your rights when it comes to work and the coronavirus. Please keep an eye on our website for more updates as we get them.