Our guide will take you through the key steps employers should take to enable staff to self-isolate when required to do so, to stop the spread of coronavirus and help restart the economy.
This page was updated on 16 August 2021.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, testing for COVID-19 has been highlighted as one of the main pillars of the government’s reopening strategy. In addition to identifying and isolating symptomatic individuals, testing can also help capture positive cases in asymptomatic individuals. With approximately 1 in 3 individuals with COVID-19 not showing symptoms, and potentially infecting people unknowingly, regular testing is needed to break the chains of transmission. More information on testing is available through our dedicated guide.
To help protect employees from infection and keep businesses open, employers should continue playing their part and encourage their workers to get tested and self-isolate in the event of a positive result.
To help reduce the risk of transmission, from 28 September 2020, individuals are *legally required to self-isolate if they test positive for coronavirus. This means having received a positive Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test or a positive lateral flow antigen test (LFDs) at a test site. A positive LFD test will need to be followed by ordering a PCR test. If the confirmatory PCR is taken within two days of a positive lateral flow test at a test site and is negative your employee will be able to stop isolating. If it is not taken within 2 days, they will need to self-isolate for 10 full days even if they get a negative PCR result.
With regards to their close contacts, on 16 August 2021, the rules on self-isolation changed. This means that employees who fall under the following categories are no longer required to self-isolate if they are a contact of a positive case. Instead, they will be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible and only self-isolate in the event that this is positive.
- Fully vaccinated staff
- Staff who have taken part in – or are currently taking part in – an MHRA approved COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial
- Staff who can evidence that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons
- Staff below the age of 18 years 6 months
In addition to PCR testing, individuals who are identified as a close contact of a positive case but are not required to self-isolate can help protect others by considering extra precautions such as wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, limiting contact with other people, especially with anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable and taking part in twice-weekly LFD testing.
Employees do not need to inform you if they are a close contact of someone who tested positive but are exempt from self-isolation (there is separate guidance for health and social care staff) and you are not expected to check whether a staff member is exempt from self-isolation.
Please note, employers must not knowingly allow staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been identified as close contacts of a positive case and don’t belong to the groups listed above to come into work. Failure to do so could result in your business facing a fine.
However, workplaces in sectors that provide essential services, including food distribution and production, emergency services, transport networks, defence, prisons, waste collection and energy, will continue to be able to use the Workplace Daily Contact Testing scheme to offer daily testing as an alternative to self-isolation for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated enabling them to continue attending work provided they test negative each day.
Businesses should take into account that self-isolation may be challenging for certain employees as they might face financial hardship and other challenges due to their inability to attend work. To enable staff to follow the self-isolation rules, employers should consider the following actions.
*If a staff member has been notified by the NHS COVID-19 app to self-isolate and they apply for the Test and Trace Support Payment, they will also be legally required to self-isolate even if they are not deemed eligible for the payment.
For the most up-to-date national guidance visit the government website.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is available for eligible individuals self-isolating because they (or their household/support bubble) are exhibiting symptoms or have been diagnosed with COVID-19. SSP can also be claimed if an employee is self-isolating because they've been notified by the NHS or public health bodies that they have come into contact with someone with coronavirus.
SMEs may be eligible to claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19) via the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme. The repayment will cover up to 2 weeks SSP starting from the first qualifying day of sickness.
If you require evidence, an isolation note can be obtained from NHS 111 online (if the employee is self-isolating and cannot work because of COVID-19). You can check if an isolation note is valid by using the Check an isolation note service.
While self-isolation should not be a consideration in deciding whether to furlough an employee, if you want to furlough staff for business reasons and they are currently off sick, you can do so. However, in these cases, the employee should no longer receive sick pay and would be classified as a furloughed employee. To see which employees you can furlough, visit the government website.
Self-employed individuals who are not eligible for sick pay can apply for Universal Credit and/or apply for New Style Employment and Support Allowance. In addition, they may be eligible for a grant under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
- New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – Individuals cannot claim New Style ESA if they are
getting Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
- Universal Credit – Individuals might be able to claim Universal Credit at the same time as SSP or New Style ESA.
- Pension Credit – Eligible applicants might be able to get Pension Credit at the same time as SSP.
Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme
Individuals who are required to self-isolate because of coronavirus but who cannot work from home and therefore, might lose income may be entitled to a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.
In order to be eligible for the scheme, individuals must have been instructed by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app to self-isolate, either because they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or have recently been in close contact with someone who has tested positive and are not exempt from self-isolation. The scheme is open to both employed and self-employed applicants.
On 22 February 2021, the government expanded the scheme to also support parents and guardians who are unable to work because they are caring for a child who is self-isolating.
Whilst individuals who are currently receiving or are the partner of someone in the same household who is receiving at least one of the qualifying benefits may be eligible for the main scheme, individuals not in receipt of benefits, may also be eligible for a discretionary £500 payment.
To view the full eligibility criteria for the scheme, visit the government’s website.
The support payment will be provided in addition to any benefits and Statutory Sick Pay eligible individuals currently receive.
Individuals will be able to apply for the Test and Trace Support Payment scheme and the discretionary payment through their Local Authority. For more information on how to apply for the scheme, visit the government’s website.
Individuals based in Greater Manchester can find further details about the Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme through their local council’s website.
The information provided is meant as a general guide only rather than advice or assurance. GC Business Growth Hub does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information and professional guidance should be sought on all aspects of business planning and responses to the coronavirus. Use of this guide and toolkit are entirely at the risk of the user. Any hyperlinks from this document are to external resources not connected to the GC Business Growth Hub and The Growth Company is not responsible for the content within any hyperlinked site.