Update: New Year, New COVID rules

Happy New Year from all of us at mpm legal! We hope you managed to have some much-deserved rest over the festive period and were able to celebrate with your loved ones despite these uncertain times.

2022 brings hope of a year less encumbered by pandemic fears and disruption but has unfortunately started on a note of confusing regulations and ever-changing advice. As cases continue to rise, concerns about how this will impact your workforce has caused several questions about employee’s rights to sick pay and time off. Amongst a constant swirl of changing rules it is difficult to make sense of what the best approach should be for you and your employees. To simplify the current regulations we have outlined the current guidelines on isolation requirements and sick pay below.

Isolation Periods:
The regulations on how long you will have to isolate for have changed depending on your vaccination status and reason for the need to isolate. Below sets out which guidelines will need to be followed in different scenarios:

Employee is fully vaccinated and has tested positive for COVID-19
Following a positive test they will have to isolate. Their isolation period will have begun from the first positive test result, regardless of whether it was a PCR or Lateral Flow test. However, the isolation period for vaccinated people can now be shortened from 10 days to 7. This is possible if the individual takes two lateral flow tests, 24 hours apart from each other, with the first one no earlier than on the sixth day of isolation, and both are negative.

Employee is fully vaccinated and has been identified as a close contact by Test and Trace
Instructions received by NHS Test and Trace are a legal requirement so must be followed. However, if you are fully vaccinated the instructions will be to take a lateral flow test everyday for 7 days and not to isolate so long as you receive negative test results.

Employee is not vaccinated and has tested positive for COVID-19 or been identified as a close contact by NHS Test and Trace
Those who have not received both doses of the vaccine will still be required to isolate for 10 days, and will not be able to use negative lateral flow tests to shorten this period.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP):
The requirements to be eligible for SSP have been extended continuously since May 2020 to allow for COVID-19 related absences.

Employee who has COVID-19 symptoms
If an employee has covid symptoms or is unwell with a positive covid test, you will be able to claim SSP on their behalf from the first day of their isolation. This has been changed from before the pandemic where employees had to be absent for 4 days before being entitled to SSP.

Employee is not unwell but is required to isolate and cannot work remotely.
SSP regulations have been amended so that employees who are required to isolate but are not unwell are entitled to be paid. These instances include:

  • Those isolating for 10 days following a positive PCR test (10 days from first positive lateral flow/PCR)
  • Those isolating for 10 days because someone they live with or is part of their support bubble has tested positive or has symptoms
  • Those who have been notified by the NHS Test and Trace service to isolate

Employees who have been isolating because they have been notified by the NHS Covid-19 app
Most likely they will not be entitled to SSP as the app is only precautionary and it is not a legal requirement to follow its advice. The app will give advice based on vaccination status, and fully vaccinated individuals are not required to self-isolate in this situation as explained above.

Sick notes:
The regulations on fit note requirements have changed, and employees are not required to provide a fit note from their GP until 28 days of absences have passed. This was introduced to allow GP’s more time to focus on the vaccination programme and will run until 26th January 2022.

The NHS has created an online isolation note system for those who have symptoms, have tested positive, live with someone with a positive test or symptoms, or have been notified to isolate by test and trace.

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