Last reviewed 30 July 2020

Employers will once again have to re-think their working arrangements due to the increase in the current self-isolation period across the UK. The respective Governments of the UK nations have confirmed this morning that the self-isolation period that applies to those who have symptoms of, or test positive for, coronavirus is now 10 days instead of 7 days.

The move has been made in an attempt to avoid a second wave of coronavirus and after reports of rare cases where someone who has contracted the virus has been able to pass it on for up to 9 days.

The extension brings the UK’s self-isolation rule closer to that which applies in other countries who already use isolation periods of 10 or more days.

The practical effect of the change for employers is that they will now have to manage longer absences from work where homeworking is not possible. Employers still have various options for dealing with the absence, and it is still open for employers to agree that a period of annual leave is used to cover the period, or could decide to enforce annual leave provided the correct notice period of this is given.

If no other arrangement is made, the employee will be entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP) from day one of the absence provided they meet other eligibility conditions, and some employers have chosen to pay contractual sick pay. The extension will obviously end up being more expensive for some employers.

There is no indication as yet that the rules around the SSP Rebate Scheme, which allow employers with fewer than 250 employees to recover coronavirus-related SSP payments from the Government, will be amended to permit employers to recover payments for more than 14 days per person, which is the current limit.

The length of the self-isolation period required in other circumstances has not changed; it remains at 14 days for those who live in the same household as someone who has symptoms of coronavirus; has received notification of close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus through a contact tracing system or arrives in the UK from overseas where no exemption applies.