By Angela Strzyzewska, Senior Solicitor.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 (‘Regulations’) came into force in England on 28 September 2020. For the avoidance of doubt, the Regulations do not extend to Scotland and/or Wales.
The Regulations set out the rules regarding mandatory periods of self-isolation following the rollout of the NHS contact tracing app.
The Regulations confirm that individuals can be fined if they do not self-isolate following a positive test result for Covid-19, or if they are instructed by NHS Test and Trace (but not via the NHS Covid-19 smartphone app) to self-isolate because they have had close contact with someone who has had a positive test result.
Also, if an individual tests positive for Covid-19, it will be a criminal offence to knowingly provide false information about their close contacts to NHS Test and Trace.
Under the Regulations, failure to comply with these self-isolation rules may result in a fine starting at £1,000, rising up to £10,000 for repeat offenders and more serious breaches.
It is important to note that the Regulations put the onus onto employers to prevent workers and agency workers who should be self-isolating from coming into the workplace.
Under Regulation 7, employers are prohibited from knowingly requiring, allowing or encouraging someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to the workplace, or to attend work anywhere other than where the individual is required to self-isolate.
This means that employers who are aware that a worker has tested positive or aware that the worker has been notified that they have come into close contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid-19 are now responsible for stopping that individual from working, unless the worker can do so from their place of self-isolation (in most cases, we anticipate this will mean unless the employee can work from home).
Breach of this provision is an offence with fines starting at £1,000 for first offence, £2,000 for the second, £4,000 for the third and £10,000 for the fourth and subsequent offences.
Under Regulation 8, workers are obliged to notify their employer as soon as reasonably practicable and not later than when the worker is next due to start work if they are required to self-isolate.
Employers may therefore wish to update internal procedures to reiterate to employees that they are required to make the employer immediately aware if they have been instructed to self-isolate.
Employers in England should remain mindful of the wider public health guidance that applies in England in respect of self-isolation from time to time.
Notwithstanding that (at least for the time being) there is no equivalent of the new Regulations in Wales and Scotland, employers in Wales and Scotland should continue to be mindful of, and act in accordance with public health guidance that applies in Wales and Scotland respectively.
If you would like to discuss the above developments, or if you require support or advice on any other employment law matters, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team on 0141 331 5150.