Coronavirus: Update for Employers

SSP what has actually changed so far?

Changes to Statutory Sick Pay legislation (SSP) were published and came into force last week, however the only change was to the definition of when someone qualifies for SSP. The new temporary regulation states:

“he is – (i) isolating himself from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland(d) or Public Health Wales(e) and effective on 12th March 2020; and by reason of that isolation is unable to work.”

There is no mention of payment of SSP from day 1 or what happens if an employee has to take time off to care for someone who has the virus.

What should I do if someone is self-isolating now, should I pay them from day 1?

Whilst the law on SSP has not yet been changed this is what the government have announced and what staff will be expecting. Therefore, my advice is that if they are following medical advice to self-isolate then you should pay SSP from day 1.

The reason for this is that I anticipate the law will change shortly to cover this and if you do not, the reputational risk to your business could be much higher and more costly than the additional 3 days SSP payment.

If you refuse to pay an employee for the first 3 days of their ‘self-isolation’ this will send a message to other staff that you care more about the bottom line than community safety and even if the aggrieved employees do not tip off the local papers or social media, you could create a culture where staff are afraid to self-isolate for fear they lose pay. Presenteeism in your workforce  at this time could be extremely costly, especially if you subsequently have to close altogether because an infected employee has been at work among colleagues and customers.

What should I pay if someone if taking time off to care for a relative with the virus?

The latest guidance from the government is that if one member of the household is sick or has symptoms then the rest of the household should also self-isolate. In this case then they should be paid SSP.

If they are taking time off to care for someone rather than self-isolating then the right to time off for dependants applies which is a right to unpaid time off.

You may however decide that you take a view on this and make a payment to them or come to some other arrangement, i.e. where you pay them SSP during this time.

As things develop it is difficult to see how someone could be caring for a relative and not have to also self-isolate in any event.

Please send your questions to me: alison[email protected] or leave a question in the comments below.

This article was written by Alison Colley, Solicitor and Founder of Real Employment Law Advice.

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The information contained in this blog post is provided for guidance and is a snapshot of the law at the time it is written. It is provided for your information only and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice that it specific to your particular circumstances.

The guidance should not be relied upon in any decision making process. It is strongly recommended that you seek advice before taking action.

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