October 14, 2020

Self-isolation regulations for employers and workers



As a reminder, the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force in England on 28 September 2020. The regulations are complex but, for the first time, they set out specific offences for employers and workers who fail to follow government self-isolation guidelines.

New Criminal Offences for Employers and Workers

Under Regulations 7 (employers), 8 (workers) and 9 (agency workers) it is an offence for:

  • An employer to knowingly allow a worker to carry out his or her duties outside the place of self-isolation (usually the home) during the isolation period; and
  • A worker or agency worker to not notify his or her employer or agent of the need to self-isolate and the start and end dates of that isolation period.

In short, an employer allowing a worker to simply enter their place of work when they should be self-isolating commits a criminal offence.

In addition, employers, agencies and end-users who receive notice from an agency worker must then, “as soon as reasonably practicable”, supply the information contained in the notification to the other parties in the agency chain e.g. the agency must supply it to the end user and (if different) the agency worker’s employer.

Fines for employers start at £1,000 for the first offence, rising to £10,000 for the fourth and further offences. Workers and agency workers face a £50 fine for failing to notify their employers or agents as soon as reasonably practical of any isolation details.

Staying on the right side of the law

Although the fines represent a significant financial deterrent for most employers, it remains to be seen how the new regulations will be enforced in practice. Where a worker cannot work from home, he or she may feel pressure to go against self-isolation rules in an effort to maintain income or job prospects. An agency worker may notify his or her agency of the requirement to self-isolate, but if this information is not passed on quickly enough to the employer and the employer then contacts the worker directly, for example, it could easily lead to confusion and a potential breach of the regulations.

Employers should ensure that line managers are aware of the new regulations and that clear, robust lines of communication remain in place between themselves, agencies and workers. It is also important to ensure that adequate notice procedures are followed by workers to avoid either party falling foul of the new regulations or employers being left short-staffed. Unclear or outdated absence policies could very well end up costing employers financially and also in terms of reputation, at a time where breaches of self-isolation rules are a real cause for concern.

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