Correct as of 26th May 2020
The Scottish Government (SG) announced its approach as the country moves to the next phase of the Coronavirus response, which is entitled 'Test and Protect'. Central to this approach is the test, trace, isolate and support strategy which aims to break chains of COVID-19 transmission. Central to this strategy is the need for employers to be familiar with the strategy and their role in ensuring the success of it.
The SG and the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) made a joint statement on fair work expectations at the start of the pandemic, which the SG has made clear still applies now. That statement stated strongly the belief that no worker should be financially penalised by their employer for following medical advice, and any absence from work relating to COVID-19 should not affect future sick pay entitlement, result in disciplinary action or count towards any future sickness absence related action. The SG believes this should continue to apply as we move forward into the next phase of the pandemic.
What is Test and Protect?
The NHS will test people who have symptoms, trace people who may have become infected by spending time in close contact with someone who tests positive, and then support those close contacts to self-isolate. That means if they have the virus they are less likely to pass it on to others.
People who have tested positive for the virus will need to self-isolate for a minimum of 7 days.
NHS contact tracers will interview them and get in touch with people they have been in close contact with, and tell them they must self-isolate for 14 days. Some people who are asked to isolate may not become unwell, but they must stay at home and self-isolate for the full 14 days.
When will employees need to self-isolate?
There are three scenarios in which an employee will have to self-isolate for an extended period these are:
- If they have symptoms of coronavirus
- If they have been informed by an NHS contact tracer that they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive
- If they live with a person who has symptoms or has tested positive
What do Employers need to do?
Employers should follow public health guidance if an employee becomes unwell with coronavirus symptoms at work. The person should leave work to self‑isolate straight away and, if possible, wear a face covering on route and avoid public transport. Employers should direct employees to get themselves tested if they display symptoms.
Until an employee has been tested and received a negative result then they should continue to stay at home. Until told if it is safe to leave home, employers should make sure that staff do not have to, or feel that they have to, come in to work. Employees can request an isolation note through NHS Inform.
If an employee is informed by a contact tracer that they should isolate, employers should help them to do so straight away. They may feel well, as the virus could still be incubating when they are asked to isolate. Some people who are asked to isolate may not become unwell, but they must stay at home and self-isolate for the full 14 days as required under the public health guidance. Employers can ask them to work from home if they are able to and they are not unwell during this period of self-isolation.
Employers should not ask someone isolating to come into work before their period of isolation is complete, in any circumstances.
Points for employers to keep in mind
Self-isolation may be required on more than one occasion, it may be that employees are contacted by a contact tracer on multiple occasions if they come into contact with multiple individuals so employers should be mindful of this possibility.
Anyone who has symptoms must self-isolate straight away.
People who have tested positive for coronavirus must self-isolate for a minimum of 7 days from the time their symptoms started.
Close contacts of someone who has tested positive identified by an NHS contact tracer will have to self-isolate for 14 days. This could mean close colleagues of an employee with symptoms may have been close contact with them and may be asked by the NHS to self-isolate if the first employee does test positive.
NHS contact tracers may require someone to self-isolate even if they have previously tested positive for coronavirus and have recovered.
Get in touch
If you've any queries about this, or any other employment related matter that could affect your business, our team of specialist employment lawyers can assist. Please contact us on 0131 247 2534 to discuss further.