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COVID-19 Self-isolation and absence

During this time of uncertainty, it is difficult to decide where you need to concentrate your efforts first.

Keep an eye on the advice and guidance of the government – it is harder than it sounds, when this situation is evolving on an almost hourly basis.

Employees and workers are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), currently £94.25 per week, if they need to self-isolate because:

  • They have coronavirus
  • They have coronavirus symptoms, for example a high temperature or new continuous cough
  • Someone in their household has coronavirus symptoms
  • They have been told to self-isolate by a doctor or NHS 111.

To qualify for SSP the employee or worker must meet the eligibility conditions which can be found on

If someone has symptoms and lives alone, they must self-isolate for 7 days.

Should they live in a household where someone is displaying the symptoms, they must self-isolate for 7 days if they are the first person with the symptoms and everyone else must self-isolate for 14 days.

If someone else then displays symptoms, the new person must self-isolate for 7 days.  This is regardless of where they are in the 14-day isolation period.

Employers can offer more than SSP – ‘contractual’ sick pay if they chose to do so.

If your employee cannot work, the normal policy of informing you will apply.  Your employee must tell you:

  • as soon as possible
  • the reason
  • how long they are likely to be off work.

If an employee needs time off work to look after someone

Having time off to help someone who depends on you applies even in situations to do with coronavirus. Dealing with an unexpected event or emergency is almost inevitable during this crisis.

A dependant does not necessarily live with a person, it could be an elderly neighbour or family member that relies on that person for help.

Whilst there is no statutory right to be paid for this time off, you might offer to pay depending on your contracts or workplace policy.  The amount of time off has to be reasonable for the situation.

If a dependant that resides in the same household gets coronavirus symptoms, you should pay SSP as a minimum for this time and they will have to follow the self-isolation guidance.

One of the unexpected events could be the school closures that came into effect on Friday 20 March 2020 in England, Scotland and Wales.  This is going to be an anxious time for parents as they cannot now rely on elderly parents for childcare as per the government guidance.

If your employees need emergency time off for childcare or to make new arrangements, they can use:

  • time off to care for someone else
  • holiday, if you agree.

You should consider:

  • talking to each other early on, about time off they may need
  • planning ahead by having regular conversations about this
  • agree flexible working.

The content contained within this document has been obtained from information gathered from and and may have changed since publication and has been provided as a guide only.  You should always seek professional advice pertaining to your own individual circumstances.

For more guidance on the impact of coronavirus in the workplace, check our Employers’ duty of care page.

If you are concerned about laying off staff, check the advice on our What if I need to lay off my employees? page.

There’s more about furloughing on our How to Furlough Your Employees page.

Want to know more about financial support during the coronavirus disruption? Then click to read the Financial Help for Businesses page.




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