Employers in England face fines of up to £10,000 if they fail to prevent workers who should be self-isolating from going to the workplace.
Under The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020, which came into force on 28 September, employers have a legal obligation to ensure staff they know have tested positive for Covid-19, or have been in close contact with somebody who has, do not attend the workplace.
Failure to comply with the law is a criminal offence and organisations and workers could face a fine of £1,000 for their first offence, rising to £10,000 for repeated infringements.
Workers are now also required to inform their employer if they have to self-isolate, and face a £50 fine if they fail to tell their employer about this.
This would mean employees would be required to go home – and tell their employer why – if they received a call from a contact tracer or a test result text message while at work. The only form of notification which is specifically excluded is one from the NHS Covid-19 app.
Those on lower incomes who are self-isolating, are unable to work from home and have lost income as a result, may be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.
Those who have been told to self-isolate from Monday (28 September) will receive backdated payments once the scheme is set up in their local authority – expected by 12 October.
Home secretary Priti Patel said: “These new measures are about saving lives. Everyone must take personal responsibility and self-isolate if they test positive or if told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.
“For those who fail to do so, the police will enforce the law. These new fines are a clear sign that we will not allow those who break the rules to reverse the hard-won progress made by the law-abiding majority.”
Richard Fox, an employment partner at law firm Kingsley Napley, said fines will be applied to employers that break the law “without reasonable excuse”.
“Although this is not an issue if the worker can work from home whilst self-isolating, it will be problematic for employers with workers who cannot work remotely in that they will be dependent on their workers informing them if they need to self-isolate,” he said.
“In practice, it is likely that the new rules will be policed internally, with workers effectively snitching or blowing the whistle on fellow workers who come into work whilst having to self-isolate and/or who do not tell their employer that they should be self-isolating.
“Employers should be, and will become, increasingly proactive so as to make clear to staff that they must inform the company as soon as they are required to self-isolate (together with relevant dates) in line with the new regulations and that failure to do so will not only be an offence in law, but subject to tough disciplinary action (possibly dismissal) internally.”
Regardless of whether workers are working from home or not, the law firm advised that anyone self-isolating should also inform their employer.