The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force within less than 48 hours of being made. The Regulations impose self-isolation requirements in relation to persons who have tested positive for coronavirus. The Regulations introduce a legal obligation on the worker to tell their employer that they are self-isolating. An individual who breaches self-isolation will, normally, commit a criminal offence.
With effect from Monday 28 September 2020 it is an offence for an employer to allow a worker (including an agency worker) to attend any place (except the place where they are required to self-isolate) for any purpose connected to the worker’s employment. The requirement to self-isolate extends to those that live with someone who has tested positive.
If an employer knows a worker has tested positive (or lives with someone who has tested positive), it is now responsible for stopping the worker from working (unless they can work from home). Any employer who fails to do so will face a fine, starting at £1,000.
A support payment of £300 will be payable for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home while they are self-isolating.
The self-isolation rule
If an individual or another member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus, they should isolate immediately. If an individual receives a positive test result, they are now required by law to self-isolate for the period ending 10 days after displaying symptoms or after the date of the test, if they did not have symptoms. Other members of their household must self-isolate for the period ending 14 days after symptom onset, or after the date of the initial person’s positive test.
If someone is instructed to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, because they have had close contact with someone outside their household who has tested positive, they are legally required to self-isolate for the period notified by NHS Test and Trace.
The government has proposed that the following steps will be taken to make sure that people are complying with the rules:
- NHS Test and Trace call handlers will increase contact with those self-isolating.
- Police resources will be used to check compliance in highest incidence areas and in high-risk groups, based on local intelligence.
- High-profile and egregious cases of non-compliance will be investigated and prosecuted.
- Instances where third parties have identified others who have tested positive, but are not self-isolating, will be acted upon.
The aim of the new legislation is to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Home Secretary Priti Patel has said that the new measures are about saving lives and everyone taking personal responsibility.
In light of the new liability that employers face, employers should consider advising employees of their obligation to tell their employer if they have a need to self-isolate, and unless employees can carry out work at the place where they are self-isolating, most probably their home, employers should not be allowing employees to carry out work at any other place.