CORONAVIRUS - PAY - 11.06.2020

Test and trace - a right to full pay?

The government has launched its test and trace scheme to help stop the spread of coronavirus. If one of your employees is contacted by the service and advised to self-isolate for 14 days, are they entitled to receive full pay?

Scheme launched

Under this scheme anyone who’s been in close contact with a person who’s tested positive for coronavirus will be traced and notified that they should self-isolate at home for 14 days with immediate effect.

If one of your employees is contacted by the test and trace service and advised to self-isolate, what are their rights in relation to pay?

Full pay?

Assuming the employee is able to undertake their normal job role at home during the period of self-isolation (which is likely if they don’t have any symptoms), they will be entitled to receive full pay from you. Where they can’t carry out their normal job role from home, there are several options available.

Firstly, even if they don’t have any coronavirus symptoms, the employee would be entitled to receive statutory sick pay (SSP) for the duration of their 14-day self-isolation period.

Reclaiming SSP

If you employ fewer than 250 employees you can reclaim this payment from HMRC. This is because the government has now extended the SSP rules to cover this specific self-isolation situation and allowed employers to reclaim SSP in certain circumstances (see The next step ).

The practical difficulty here though is that SSP is currently paid at a rate of £95.85 p.w. This is a lot less than many employees would normally earn.

Hidden danger

Add that to the fact that the advised 14-day self-isolation period under the test and trace scheme is presently voluntary only and you might have employees wanting to come to work to receive full pay instead of staying at home.

Encouraging compliance

This is a particularly likely if the employee isn’t showing any coronavirus symptoms. However, even if the employee is symptom free, their presence could potentially put your workplace and other staff at risk.

Tip. To encourage self-isolation, you could offer the employee the option of taking annual leave (on full pay). The test and trace guidance for employers says this is acceptable (see The next step ).

At your discretion

Alternatively, you could opt to pay the employee in full to remain at home during the self-isolation period - just be aware that this approach would need to be applied to all those contacted by the test and trace scheme. You couldn’t pay one or some staff at your discretion, yet insist that others receive SSP only or take annual leave.

Tip. If you took this approach and subsequently discovered that an employee had lied about being contacted by the test and trace system to get two weeks at home on full pay, you would have grounds for disciplinary action.

Where an employee is able to work from home during the 14-day self-isolation period, they will be entitled to receive full pay. If this isn’t possible, they can either be paid SSP, encouraged to take annual leave or be paid in full at your discretion. Do be aware that self-isolation under the test and trace scheme is advised, it isn’t currently mandatory.

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