The Government has announced a reduction in the minimum duration of the self-isolation period for individuals in England who test positive for Covid-19 and the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme. We set out a summary of the changes below.
Self-isolation period reduced from 10 to 7 days
From today (22 December), the 10-day self-isolation requirement for individuals in England who have tested positive for Covid-19 has been altered to allow them to end self-isolation after seven days if they receive negative results in two consecutive LFD tests and they do not have a high temperature. The first LFD test can be taken from the sixth day of the individual’s isolation period, with the second test to be taken at least 24 hours later.
The Government guidance gives the following example:
“[If] your symptoms started at any time on the 15th of the month (or if you did not have symptoms but your first positive COVID-19 test was taken on the 15th), you may take daily LFD tests from the 21st. If your LFD test results are negative on the 21st and 22nd, and you do not have a high temperature, you may end your isolation period after the negative test result on the 22nd.”
Individuals who end their self-isolation early following two negative LFD tests are strongly advised to take precautions until 10 full days from when their self-isolation period started, such as limiting close contact with people outside their household, wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces even if this is not a legal requirement and limiting contact with people who are at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19.
Note that the rules for individuals who live in the same household as someone with confirmed Covid-19 and those who are identified as close contacts of someone with confirmed Covid-19 have not changed. Also note that the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own powers over Covid-19 related measures, including self-isolation rules; at the time of writing, the changes described above apply in England only.
Reintroduction of SSP Rebate Scheme
Government has also announced that it is reintroducing the SSP Rebate Scheme, which allows employers with fewer than 250 employees to reclaim the cost of up to two weeks’ Covid-19 related SSP per employee.
The SSP Rebate Scheme was initially introduced in Spring 2020 to support small and medium sized employers with the extra costs of Covid-19 related SSP, but it closed earlier this year, only covering periods of absence up to and including 30 September 2021. It is being reintroduced in light of rising levels of Covid-19 related absence due to the spread of the Omicron variant. Employers will be able to submit new claims from mid-January (including retrospective claims covering the period from 21 December).
- Only employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible, with the size of the employer being determined by the number of people employed on their PAYE payroll as at 30 November 2021.
- Employers will need to maintain records of any staff absences for which they are claiming, including each employee’s National Insurance number and the dates of and reasons for their absence. These records will need to be retained for 3 years after the date the employer receives their payment from the Scheme.
- Under the initial Scheme, employers were able to submit more than one claim per employee but could not claim more than two weeks’ SSP in total per employee. This limit will be reset so that an employer will be able to claim up to two weeks’ SSP per employee even if they had already claimed under the previous scheme for that employee.
Self-certification period extended to 28 days
In addition, as we reported earlier this week, in order to increase GPs’ capacity and maximise their ability to support the coronavirus vaccine booster programme, new regulations have been introduced which alter the rules around self-certification, fit notes and eligibility for SSP. If an employee goes off sick on any day on or after 10 December 2021, up to and including 26 January 2022, their employer cannot require them to produce a fit note or other evidence of sickness until they have been off for 28 days or more.
How we can help
Our Covid-19 FAQs are regularly maintained to keep employers up-to-date on all HR and employment related Covid-19 issues. You may also find it helpful to refer to our recent blog, ‘HR Challenges of a Covid Christmas’.
Make UK members who need advice in relation to managing sickness absence should contact their regular adviser.
We can also provide advice and assistance to non-members on a consultancy basis – if you would like further information on our services, please call us on 0808 168 5874, or email [email protected].