People unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) can now obtain an isolation note through a new online service.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has explained that the new notes will provide employees with evidence for their employers that they have been advised to self-isolate due to coronavirus, either because they have symptoms or they live with someone who has symptoms, and so cannot work.

As this means that they will not need to contact a doctor, it will reduce the pressure on GP surgeries and prevent people needing to leave their homes.

For the first seven days off work, employees can self-certify so they do not need any evidence for their employer. After that, employers may ask for evidence of sickness absence.

Where this is related to having symptoms of coronavirus or living with someone who has symptoms, the DHSC makes clear that the isolation note can be used to provide evidence of the advice to self-isolate.

How the system works

The notes can be accessed through the NHS website (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19) and NHS 111 online (https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19).

After answering a few questions, an isolation note will be emailed to the user. If they do not have an email address, they can have the note sent to a trusted family member or friend, or directly to their employer.

The service can also be used to generate an isolation note on behalf of someone else.

Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “Digital isolation notes will provide reassurance to those self-isolating and their employers while also reducing the pressure on our NHS, so they can continue doing all they can to protect the people of this country and save lives.”

Comment by Peninsula Associate Director of Advisory Kate Palmer

This will no doubt be good news for employers who may have been concerned over how they can avoid employees abusing the current situation to take time off work.

With new rules surrounding the payment of statutory sick pay expected as a result of the coronavirus, employers can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they reserve the right, as usual, to ask for further medical proof as a period of sickness absence extends past seven days.

Currently, it seems the system is to stay the same as usual; if someone is off work for longer than seven days as a result of the coronavirus, and unable to work due to this, they will need to present this form of evidence to outline why this is.

Due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, many employers will likely see in the coming weeks and months that employees need to self-isolate for periods of 14 days as per government guidelines.

To this end, they must familiarise themselves with this isolation note and know to ask employees to present it.

Last reviewed 25 March 2020