‘Self-isolation’ – what it means and its possible impact on your rights and pay

Up until a week ago many of us had probably never heard the term ‘self-isolation’, but not a day goes by without us being aware of people who have been asked or have chosen to isolate themselves to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus.

COVID-19 guidance for employees
27th February 2020

DAS has put together a set of regularly-updated COVID-19 FAQs for individuals, covering employment rights and rights for the self-employed. You can read them on our dedicated COVID-19 microsite.

What impact could self-isolation have on workers’ rights and pay? Nicole Rogers, Solicitor at DAS Law has the answers.

I am worried about recent developments and I feel that I should be ‘self-isolating’. Can my employer deduct my pay for the time I am away from work?

This will depend on the facts. If you are otherwise fit for work but are taking precautionary steps by ‘self-isolating’, technically you are not entitled to sick pay. You are of course entitled to request annual leave.

In circumstances where you do not wish to take either sick leave or annual leave and you are wanting to take precautionary steps then before you make any decision to self-isolate, speak to your employer.

Many employers can allow temporary flexible working arrangements to enable employees to work from home.

What are my rights if I have either contracted the virus or I am told by my employer to self-isolate?

If you have contracted the virus, normal rules around sick pay will apply and you will either receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) or contractual sick pay.

In circumstances where you have not contracted the virus but your employer has specifically told you not to come into the workplace as you have been in or to an affected area, your employer may look to see what flexible home working arrangement can be put in place to enable you to work.

Strictly speaking you will not be entitled to sick pay, but you will be entitled to request annual leave or unpaid leave. Speak to your employer as many organisations will be putting in place their own policies to cover this situation.

You may also have a specific clause in your contract relating to such circumstances and how this time off should be paid.

Can I be forced to use my annual leave if I am ‘self-isolating’?

You cannot be forced to use annual leave if you are medically unfit for work. However in many other circumstances, your employer can force you to take annual leave if they provide you with adequate notice; twice the amount of the days you are being forced to take. For example, to force you to use 5 days’ holiday, your employer must give you 10 days’ notice.

If your employer is asking you to take annual leave, you are entitled to request unpaid leave or sick leave if you are unfit to attend work.

Will I be paid statutory sick pay while I’m away from work?

Only if you are medically unfit for work and meet the eligibility criteria for Statutory Sick Pay.

Will my pay be affected if I have to stay at home due to my child’s school being closed?

You have the right to reasonable time off to deal with unexpected disruptions relating to the care of your child; this includes incidents relating to your child’s school.

You must notify your employer as soon as possible and advise, where practicable, how long the disruption is likely to last. This time off is unpaid but you may request to use this time as paid annual leave.

If I am on a ‘zero hours’ contract will I lose pay for the time I am away from work?

Genuine zero-hour workers have no right to be offered work and no obligation to accept work. Therefore, you will likely have no right to pay. In the event that you have been advised to self-isolate, your employer will be entitled to simply not offer you any work until the isolation period has ended.

Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created. Note that the information was accurate at the time of publication but laws may have since changed.

Nicole Rogers

Senior Associate, Solicitor

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