The New Self-Isolation Regulations
In response to the recent increase in coronavirus cases, the government has brought in a raft of measures to tackle the problem. One of these measures is the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020. They were introduced on Sunday 27th September and came into force at midnight.
Among other things, they set out the rules around self-isolating employees and what the employer can and cannot do if one of their employees finds themselves in this position. There are several regulations in the document but those with particular relevance for employers and employees are Regulations 7 and 8.
Employers’ Obligations - Regulation 7
Regulation 7 says that where the employer of a self-isolating worker (and for the purposes of the Regulations, this includes agency workers) is aware of the requirement to self-isolate, they must not knowingly allow the worker to attend any place other than the designated place (the location that they have given for their self-isolation) during the isolation period, for any purpose related to the worker’s employment.
This means that if an employer knowingly allows a worker to “attend any place other than the designated place” during the period of self-isolation, they will be guilty of an offence. For the purposes of the Regulations, attending any other place means coming into the workplace.
Under the Regulations, this will include anyone who has to self-isolate because they live with someone who has received a positive result for a coronavirus test.
The responsibility for preventing the worker from attending the workplace is now the employer’s. The employee should be advised that they are not allowed to attend the workplace and, should they turn up anyway, should not be allowed in. However, if workers are able to carry out their duties from their designated place then they can do so. This will not place their employer in breach of the regulation.
A breach of Regulation 7 by the employer is punishable with a fine of £1,000 for first offence, £2,000 for the second, £4,000 for the third and £10,000 for the fourth and subsequent offences.
Employees’ obligations – Regulation 8
Regulation 8 says that where a worker is aware of the requirement to self-isolate, they must notify their employer about this as well as the date that the isolation period starts and ends.
This notification must be given as soon as reasonably practicable, and definitely before they are next due to start work, if that falls within the isolation period.
Failure to do so will constitute an offence, punishable by a fixed penalty.
Consequences for the employee – Section 11
It is worth noting that any employee who breaches self-isolation will be guilty of a separate criminal offence under Regulation 11. Employers should remind employees of their obligations and ensure that they abide by the requirements of the Regulations or they face personal criminal liability.
When to self-isolate
A person must self-isolate after they have received notification from the NHS Test and Trace service or Public Health England or others, or they will be committing a criminal offence, with the fines that accompany this. However, this does not apply if they have only received notification from the COVID-19 NHS app.
What should employers do?
Employers should ensure that all managers who have responsibility for employees - and who would be likely to take a call from an employee to inform them of self-isolation status - are aware of the responsibilities imposed by these regulations.
All employees should be made aware of what they need to do under Regulation 8 if they are required to self-isolate.
Laura Moore, Employment Solicitor at rradar