Do UK Workers Get Paid Sick Leave If They Self-Isolate Due To Coronavirus?

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This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest news and science around the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in the UK.

The COVID-19 outbreak has completely transformed the way many people work. Concerns over the fate of industries including hospitality, retail, and air transport has left many fearing for their jobs and that’s before you even factor in the prospect of illness. For the past few weeks, prior to the UK-wide lockdown, the “mildly sick” have been told “to stay home”, so you may be wondering do I get paid sick leave if I’m sent home due to coronavirus?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t exactly straightforward for everyone but since the government announced strict social distancing measures followed by a nationwide lockdown, grants have been introduced to help keep individuals and businesses going.

What's The UK Government's Advice On Coronavirus & Sick Leave?

On Feb. 27, Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons that “those who need to self-isolate due to the coronavirus are entitled to sick leave.” He later added: “Self-isolation on medical advice is considered sickness for employment purposes.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed Hancock’s statement in the Budget 2020 meeting, stating that Statutory Sick Pay will be made available for those who need to self-isolate, per Metro. “For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, I have decided that the cost of providing Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to any employee off work due to coronavirus will, for up to 14 days, be met by the government in full,” he told the House of Commons.

You can check if you’re eligible for SSP here.

However, now that many workers will have to stay at home, the government has put further measures in place. In the daily COVID-19 briefing on March 20, Sunak outlined how the government will further support people who are both self employed and work for a business, whether they can work from home or not. All UK businesses will be able to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to ensure that workers still get paid.

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What Are The Government’s New Measures To Help Businesses?

Understandably, business owners are pretty worried about the effect people quarantining themselves or self-isolating due to the coronavirus will have on the economy and their ability to continue to bring in money. To try and combat this, Sunak announced on March 17 that the government will give out £330 billion in loans to help businesses stay afloat, a whopping 15 percent of GDP.

According to The Guardian, the “attractive” loans will be able for a variety of uses, such as paying wages, rent or buying stock, with small businesses able to claim interruption loans of up to £5 million. Should demand be for more money, Sunak has said he will increase the numbers.

Additionally, cash grants worth £25,000 will be available to retail, leisure and hospitality firms, while the smallest businesses will have access to grants of £10,000. Sunak also said that “every single shop, pub, theatre, music venue, restaurant … will pay no business rates for 12 months.”

On March 20 Sunak announced that VAT payments by companies would be deferred until the end of June and for freelance workers self-assessment income tax payments for July 2020 deferred for six months. This is with the hope that companies and freelance workers will have more money put away to help them get through this difficult time.

Capital Economics said that it expected the unemployment rate to rise from just under 4 percent to about 6 percent due to the crisis. However, without this latest government intervention, that rate would have risen to the financial crisis level of 8 percent, it said.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, self employed people weren’t entitled to statutory sick pay. Per the Guardian, five million people are currently classed as self employed and are left in a very precarious position if they’re too sick to do their job. Sunak announced that, should they need to, self employed people can apply for full universal credit. However, that comes with a five week wait and although Sunak did announce an increase of £1,000 a year to Universal Credit, the amount is still far less than the average self-employed salary. Per iNews, the standard monthly allowance will increase from £323.22 to around £406 per month, while the average self-employed salary is £1025 per month.

Who Will Pay My Wage?

Coronavirus is posing a real threat to the way many people work. If you can’t go into work and are facing the prospect of not earning money over the isolation period, it’s hugely stressful. After Boris Johnson announced that pubs, restaurants, and cafes would need to close in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus Sunak outlined how the government plans on protecting workers.

Sunak said that the government will pay 80 percent of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month with the hope that people will keep their jobs even if their employers can’t afford to pay them. The scheme, which will be run by HMRC is said to last three months but the chancellor said it could be extended “if necessary.”

Sunak said of the measures, “I know that people are worried about losing their jobs, about not being able to pay the rent or mortgage, about not having enough set by for food and bills... to all those at home right now, anxious about the days ahead, I say this: you will not face this alone."

According to the Office for National Statistics the typical worker is paid £585 a week, so under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme can expect to be paid about £2,340 a month.

Who Needs To Self-Isolate?

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At the time of writing (March 23), The Health Department has advised that you self-isolate if you have returned to the UK from:

  • Anywhere in Italy on or after 9 March, even if you do not have symptoms
  • Iran, Hubei province in China, and Daegu, Cheongdo, or Gyeongsan in South Korea in the last 14 days, even if you do not have symptoms
  • other parts of Italy (outside lockdown areas in northern Italy), mainland China (outside of Hubei province), South Korea (outside special care zones), before March 9 and have a cough, high temperature, or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are mild)
  • Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam in the last 14 days and have a cough, high temperature or shortness of breath (even if your symptoms are mild)

The NHS has suggested that you self isolate if you’ve exhibited any symptoms, however minor. This means staying inside, not using public transport or taxis, not having visitors, such as friends and family, in your home, and not going out to buy food or collect medicine.

You should also self-isolate if you’ve been in contact with someone that has the virus or if you are awaiting test results to see whether you have it.

At this point everyone should be practicing social distancing, so not standing any closer than six feet of someone and staying in except for essential trips to the supermarket, to collect medicine, to help vulnerable people, or to exercise. People who are high risk, including people over the age of 70 or pregnant people have been told to self isolate for 12 weeks.

Read more here:

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If you or someone you’ve been in close contact with appears to have shown or be showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and coughing, visit the NHS website in the UK to find out the next steps you should take or visit the CDC website in the U.S. for up-to-date information and resources. You can find all Bustle’s coverage of coronavirus here, and UK-specific updates on coronavirus here.

This post is updated regularly to reflect the latest news and science around the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in the UK.

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