The new Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) Regulations 2020 came into force on Sunday, 27 September 2020.
The Regulations set out mandatory periods for self-isolation and a duty to notify the Secretary of State of the names of people in the same household of anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
- The important element for employers is Regulation 7. This makes it an offence for an employer to knowingly permit a worker (including an agency worker) to attend any place other than where the individual is self-isolating. This includes individuals who are required to self-isolate because they live with someone who has tested positive.
- Therefore, 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.
- There is also an obligation on the worker to tell their employer that they are self-isolating (Regulation 8). However, the Regulations do not specify the means by which a self-isolating worker must notify their employer, which might present difficulties for employers who will have to accept the word of their workers.
- Self-isolation will essentially be by way of self-certification in the same way as a period of short sickness absence.
- If the employer has reasonable grounds to believe that the worker has made a false declaration, it can instigate a disciplinary matter but given a potential imposition of a criminal penalty (Regulation 11) with respect to anyone who breaches self-isolation rules, the employers will to have to place considerable trust in workers declaring self-isolation.
- Employers might also experience some disruption as a result of these requirements. If a worker receives a call from a contact tracer while they are at work, their self-isolation period will begin immediately and they will have to return home until their self-isolation ends.
For advice on this or other employment law matters contact Irina Polyakova or Lewis Holroyd on 01484 821 300.
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