The position in the UK at present is that the Government is considering a package of employment-related measures to try to assist with the anticipated outbreak.

Sick Pay

The position with entitlement to Statutory Sick Pay, is that if an employee is eligible and is absent from work due to sickness (whether Covid-19 related or not), they are entitled to SSP with effect from the fourth day of absence. The first three days of absence are known as “waiting days”, for which no SSP is payable. Employees are required to self-certify for the first seven days of absence and then obtain a fit note from a GP for any further days of absence.

If an employee is not symptomatic but has been advised by a medical professional to self-isolate, whether because they have returned from an affected area or because they are in a high-risk group (such as those with compromised immunity or underlying medical conditions), it is unclear whether they are entitled to claim SSP. However, the general consensus appears to be that if they have received this advice from a medical professional, they are likely to be eligible for SSP.

If an employee simply chooses to self-isolate, because they are concerned about contracting the virus, they will not be eligible for SSP.

Self-employed individuals have no entitlement to SSP regardless of their position and may need to rely on personal income protection policies, if they have them.

Proposed Changes

The Government is currently considering passing emergency legislation to increase access to SSP for affected employees. Measures include having SSP payable from day one of absence (so removing the three waiting days) and also dispensing with the requirement for a fit note from day eight onwards, to reduce the burden on GPs and to avoid spreading the virus further. These changes are not yet in force and we await further developments.

Volunteers for the NHS

An additional measure being considered by the Government is introducing a new legal protection against dismissal for anyone who volunteers to work for the NHS during the affected period. It is envisaged that such measures could protect jobs for up to four weeks whilst an individual volunteers with the NHS.

Potential changes to isolation advice

It has been suggested today that within 10-14 days, the Government will change its advice such that those with even minor symptoms of respiratory tract infections or fever will be advised to self-isolate for seven days.


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Author: Lucy Gordon

Senior Solicitor, ESP Law Ltd

Lucy is an employment solicitor who brings to ESP over a decade’s experience at DLA Piper, one of the world’s most prestigious law firms. At DLA Piper, Lucy was involved in a number of global projects for major international customers and handled a varied case-load of employment matters for a range of UK customers, including complex Employment Tribunal cases involving whistleblowing and TUPE.