The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 (the Regulation) came into force yesterday (28 September 2020) and they have important implications for employers and employees alike. A copy of the Regulations can be found here.
The Regulation introduces important obligations for all workers to notify their employer if they are required to self-isolate if they are due to undertake any work from a location that is not where they are self-isolating. The self-isolation location will usually be an employee’s home but wherever the location, the Regulation applies to any work undertaken outside of that location and therefore could include attending site meetings, client offices etc as well as the office.
Obligation to Self-Isolate
The Regulation requires self-isolation where an employee is informed by an NHS or Local Authority worker or representative that:
- they have tested positive for Covid-19 such that they are within an isolation period;
- they have had close contact after 28 September with someone who has tested positive such that they are within an isolation period; or
- a child (under 18s) for whom the employee is responsible has tested positive such that they are within an isolation period; or
- a child for whom the employee is responsible has had close contact with someone who has tested positive such that they are within an isolation period.
The Regulation also provide that notification may come from the Secretary of State but we await further clarification of precisely what that means; it may include for example, through the NHS Covid Smartphone App or where employees have had a private or ‘non NHS’ test. We will keep the position under review and provide clarification as soon as it is available.
Period of Self-Isolation
The period of isolation required will vary depending on a number of factors but employees should be notified of the required period of isolation when they are notified of 1 – 4 above. In broad terms, an individual is required to self-isolate for a period of 10 days from the date of receipt of the positive test for Covid-19 or where they have come into close contact with somebody who has received a positive test result for Coronavirus, then they must self-isolate for a period of 14 days from the later of (a) 5 days before the date of a positive test result from a close contact or (b) from the date on which the close contact first reported symptoms of Coronavirus.
Under section 7 of the Regulation, an employer cannot knowingly allow a self-isolating employee to attend any place other than their isolation location for any purpose related to the worker’s employment. If an officer of any business consents to a breach that obligation or if any breach is attributable to their negligence, then that individual officer and the business will have committed a criminal offence.
Under section 8 of the Regulation, a self-isolating employer who is (a) aware of the requirement to self-isolate and (b) due to work during the self-isolation period other than their designated isolation location, must notify their employer of a requirement to self-isolate and the start and end date of the isolation period. Any breach of this obligation is a criminal offence.
This raises important questions for those who have staff attending the office and employers should undertake an urgent review of their employee notification processes to ensure that confirmations are received from employees that 1 – 4 does not apply to them before they attend the office and employees should be informed of their obligations to report to their employer those matters covered by section 8 of the Regulation.
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