Home Advice for Parents & CarersCoronavirus (COVID-19) Coronavirus (COVID-19) – What are my rights?

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – What are my rights?

Last updated: 13 Apr 2021

*PLEASE FOLLOW GOVERNMENT GUIDANCE OR GUIDANCE SPECIFIC TO YOUR LOCAL AREA AS GUIDANCE ON CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) IS CHANGING DAILY*

You might also want to look at our other coronavirus pages:

 

Furlough information sheets

This document of key information about childcare, caring, the clinically extremely vulnerable and furlough might be useful to show to your employer.

Key Info for Employers

What to do if your employer refuses to furlough you.

Key info for employees

Taking time off work

I need to self-isolate, but my employer wants me to come into work

Since September 2020, it has been the law to self-isolate for 10 days if you have tested positive for coronavirus, or have been instructed by NHS Test and Trace to self-isolate. 

There is a legal obligation on the worker to tell their employer that they are self-isolating. You must tell your employer (preferably in writing) that you have been told to self isolate. If you breach self-isolation, you will commit a criminal offence. You will also be liable for a fine of £1,000.

It is also an offence for an employer to allow workers (including agency workers) to attend work or any place for any purpose connected to the worker’s employment. Your employer can ask you to work from home, or work from the place where you are self isolating.

The requirement to self-isolate extends to those who live with someone who has tested positive. You may want to alert your employer to these rules, preferably in writing if they are asking you to work. 

If an employer knows a worker has tested positive (or lives with someone who has tested positive), the employer is responsible for stopping them from working (unless they can work from home). Any employer who fails to do so will face a fine, starting at £1,000. The fine could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and for the most extreme breaches.

If your employer is threatening you with disciplinary action or less favourable treatment/dismissal if you do not come to work, you should alert them to the new rules which can be found on GOV.UK

If they continue to demand that you attend work, this would also amount to a breach of a legal obligation and also a breach of health and safety legislation. You have the option to “blow the whistle” in relation to this and should seek legal advice if you notify your employer of the rules and they fail to comply.

Do I have to go in to work if I’m worried about catching coronavirus?

The government guidance is that you should work from home if possible. 

Employers are under a duty to take all reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus. If you cannot work from home, you may be required to still go to work provided your workplace is COVID-secure. Please check our Return to Work and Health and Safety pages for more information.

If you need further advice on what benefits you could claim during a period of unpaid leave, we have a specific website page on financial support for families whose income is affected by coronavirus.

As the furlough scheme has been extended, if you are concerned about your health and safety it might be worth asking your employer to put you on furlough or to continue to furlough you, or (if possible) to set you up with home working arrangements. Please check our Furlough Pages for more information.

What if I’m clinically extremely vulnerable

Shielding advice has been lifted as of 1 April 2021. The current advice (in England) is that if you cannot work from home, you should go to work if your employer has followed COVID health and safety guidance. For more information, see our page on Rights for carers and clinically extremely vulnerable.

If you cannot work from home and if you have concerns about returning to work (for instance, if you are not yet fully vaccinated), you can ask to be furloughed if you are eligible. If your employer does not agree to furlough you, you may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay, Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit. Other eligibility criteria will apply. Please check our financial support pages for further information.

What if I live with someone who is vulnerable

Those workers who live with clinically extremely vulnerable and those workers who are clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) can be asked to return to work by their employer providing that the workplace has been made COVID-secure.

If you are concerned, you should explain your situation to your employer and ask to be given the safest available on site role, or ask to be furloughed if eligible.

For more information, see our page on Rights for carers and clinically extremely vulnerable.

What if I’m pregnant?

Please see our detailed advice on Rights relating to pregnancy and new parents.

There are specific health and safety entitlements for pregnant employees. These include an obligation for your employer to carry out a pregnancy risk assessment and to alter working conditions or hours to avoid any significant risk. Your employer may do this by taking extra steps to enforce safe distancing at your workplace.

You do have a right to be suspended on full pay if the risks cannot be avoided and there is no suitable alternative work for you. If you are suspended on full pay into the 4th week before your expected week of childbirth, your maternity leave will commence. This right only extends to pregnant employees.

What if my employer treats me as absent without authorisation?

It is important to inform your employer as soon as possible in writing of the reason why you’re not coming to work. For instance, it maybe because  someone in your home or you start developing symptoms which means you have to self-isolate, or you have to care for a dependant (see above).

Failure to inform your employer may mean they treat your absence as unauthorised, but if you do inform them and the reason for your absence is justified, your absence will not be unauthorised. Indeed the government says you must stay at home if you develop certain symptoms, however mild.

If you take time off for dependants, you need to keep your employer informed, in writing, and explain why it is absolutely necessary for you to be off work.

We would recommend that you keep a record of any communication you’ve had with your employer in writing.

Can my employer count my absence towards my sickness record?

If you are sick, this should be accepted as sickness absence by your employer. If you are showing signs of coronavirus, you should not go to see your GP to get a sick note. Instead, the NHS has produced an online version of the sick note called an ‘isolation note’, which your employer should accept.

See our financial support page for information on sick pay and benefits you may be able to claim while you’re off sick.

Your employer should record your sickness absence in the usual way in line with their sickness policy. Many employers will update their policies to make it clear that absence related to coronavirus will not be taken into account in attendance or management procedures that could impact on your employment. Even if your workplace policies haven’t been updated, we would not expect your employer to be taking the coronavirus-related absence into account in making any decisions in relation to disciplinaries or dismissals.

If you are concerned about taking sick leave, you could consider whether there are any alternative options to sick leave. You may be eligible for furlough. Your employer may also be willing to agree for you to take annual leave, unpaid leave, unpaid parental leave, a sabbatical or other period of leave. You would need to check how long the leave could last and if the leave would be paid or unpaid.

You may be able claim unfair dismissal if your employer decided to dismiss you because of sickness absence taken in relation to coronavirus. We would strongly emphasise that although this sick leave may be noted on your sickness record, it is vital you do not continue going to work while displaying symptoms.

Can I take or change my annual leave?

Your employer may ask you to use your annual leave to cover the period of self-isolation (if on annual leave, you will be paid as normal). You can also ask your employer to change your annual leave dates, but there’s no legal obligation for your employer to agree.

If you want to take leave at a specific time, your employer can refuse the dates you want to take, for example if it would leave them short-staffed. But if you do not want to take your annual leave during the lockdown, you could say that in the current circumstances, this would not be a holiday which is supposed to be for rest and recuperation. If you can prove that the current time off work because of your personal circumstances (e.g. having to home school your children whilst they are isolating) is not a non-working relaxation time, you could argue that your employer should not be forcing you to take your holiday. 

You should follow any specific rules set out in your contract or another workplace agreement about how to request holiday. In the absence of anything to the contrary in your contract, then the default rules are as follows:

  • you would need to give at least twice as much notice as the period of holiday you want to take (so, to take 2 days’ holiday you would need to give 4 days’ notice); and
  • your employer could refuse your request by giving the same amount of notice as the holiday it wishes to refuse (so, to refuse 2 days’ holiday the employer would need to give at least 2 days’ notice).

Can I carry over my annual leave into next year if I can’t take it?

Yes, the government has announced that you are able to carry over up to four weeks of annual leave into the next two leave years.

This will allow leave to be taken sometime in the following two years but only where the holiday leave was not taken in this current holiday year as a result of the effects of coronavirus.

What if my employer asks me to stay home?

If you can work from home, you should be paid your salary as normal. Even if home working isn’t usually allowed, check with your employer if you are allowed to work from home. The government has said that anyone who can work from home, should do so.

If you cannot work from home, then your employer might have put you on furlough or asked you to take a period of leave. 

Usually, if you can show that you are “willing, ready, and able” to work then you should be paid your full salary, even if your employer asks you to stay off work.

Some employment contracts might have a “lay off clause” which allow your employer to lay you off work without pay. These are very rare. Even if you are entitled to your full pay, you may be inclined to accept a pay cut while you are off work –  especially if your employer has cash-flow issues and the alternative is redundancy. 

Childcare

What if I cannot work due to childcare?

Please see our detailed advice on School Closures and Childcare.

Can my employer ask me to bring my children into work?

In certain circumstances, your employer may be able to ask you to bring your children into work, but they should not force you to do so. You must consider if it is safe for your children to be at your workplace and how it would impact your ability to do your job.

Before agreeing, you should ask your employer how they think the arrangement would work – for example, would they provide a safe space for the children to sit and play? Would you be able to take breaks with them? Would your role or hours would be adjusted because of the disruption? And how will they enforce health and safety requirements with very small children?

Your employer knows you and your work space but they won’t know your child so it important to think about these issues before agreeing. You may want to consider a trial day of the arrangement to see if it could work.

If your employer asks you to bring your children to work, they must ensure they comply with health and safety rules for you and your child.

Health and Safety

All employers are required by the law to assess and minimise health and safety risks in the workplace (whether those affect their employees or others). As your employer is asking you to bring your child into work, they must take precautions to protect both your health as an employee and that of your children.

As well as the usual obligation to provide a safe workplace, employers must take additional precautions where young people (i.e. aged 18 or under) are involved. The law specifically states that must protect young people from risks arising due to:

  • their lack of experience;
  • being unaware of existing or potential risks; or
  • their lack of maturity.

You should consider carefully whether it is safe your child to come to work with you, considering the government’s strict social distancing guidance.  You should also consider whether either you or your child(ren) are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus due to pre-existing medical conditions. It may be a good idea to approach your employer to ask them what additional measures they will take to protect you and your child(ren) during this time.

If, following discussions with your employer, you reasonably believe that your workplace would not be a safe environment for you or your child(ren), you may be able to refuse to go to work. For information on what to do if your employer has not taken effective health and safety measures to protect you and your child, please see the answer to our FAQ above ‘Can my employer dismiss me if I refuse to come to work because I’m worried about coronavirus?’.

Indirect Sex Discrimination – Women

If you don’t want to take your children to work because it would significantly affect your performance or productivity, you may be able to refuse to come into work and/or bring a claim against your employer for indirect sex discrimination.

You could argue that your employer’s policy of requiring employees with children to bring their children to work disproportionately impacts women who generally have more childcare responsibilities. However, remember that an employer can theoretically justify indirect discrimination if they have a legitimate business need for their actions.

You can find more information on discrimination and flexible working here.

Alternatives – taking time off work and flexible working

You might consider taking leave or adopting a flexible working arrangement (e.g. working from home) to avoid bringing your child into work until alternative childcare becomes available. There’s more information about the leave you might be able to take in our FAQ response ‘Am I allowed time off work if I have to care for my children (because I have no childcare available) or someone else who depends on me?’ 

Working from home

What are my entitlements while working from home?

In or out of the office, employers have the same obligations to their employees. This means that pay, terms and conditions of employment as set out in the employment contract will still apply.

Employment contracts may need to be amended or renegotiated if conditions change (such as the place and time of work) and such change is not provided for in the current contract.

Setting up to work from home

Employers are responsible for the equipment and technology they give employees so they can work from home. An employer should discuss this with the employee to agree what equipment is needed and they should also support the employee in setting things up.

In setting up the employee to work from home, certain expenses may be covered, including:

  • equipment, services or supplies (for example, computers, office furniture, internet access and stationary); and
  • additional household expenses (for example, gas and electricity charges).

More information about the expenses and benefits of homeworking can be found here. You may be able to claim tax relief for these costs, but you cannot claim relief if you choose to work from home.

Health and safety

Employers are also responsible for the health and safety of all employees, including those working from home. Employers must carry out risk assessments, make sure employees have the right equipment to work safely and that each employee feels the work they are being asked to do at home can be done safely, and keep in regular contact.

If changes are needed, employers are responsible for making sure they happen. The HSE provides guidance for employers on health and safety for home workers.

Further support

In providing further support, employers should:

  • Provide access to company data and documents, and ensure that data is secure
  • Regularly assess how systems and processes are working
  • Set clear expectations of their employees and outline the practicalities of working from home (for example, through a homeworking policy)
  • Provide proper management and supervision, and ensure the employee is given the same opportunities for training, development and promotion
  • Keep in touch and encourage communication with other employees
  • Be sensitive and flexible towards an employee’s situation, for example with childcare. This should be discussed with each employee, and may require an agreed change to contractual obligations.

For more information, ACAS have a homeworking guide for employers and employees

I’m working from home but I’m often interrupted by my children

When you are working, your employer has the right to expect that you are devoting your attention to working rather than looking after your children.

However, this is an exceptional situation and many employers are exercising common sense and flexibility to allow employees to reduce or vary their working hours or pattern to enable them to work around childcare needs.

You can ask to be furloughed under the current guidance if you are unable to work (including from home) due to your childcare or caring needs as a result of COVID-19. See our furlough pages for more information. 

Ask for flexible working: If you think working flexibly (e.g. moving your hours around to fit around childcare) is an option in your role then you should raise that with your employer. Explain how the pattern could work for you and them.

If your employer does not agree to your request then you have the option to make a formal request for flexible working. If you only want to change your contract temporarily, you should make this clear. We would suggest asking for the new work pattern to remain in place for as long as the government request people work from home due to coronavirus. Making a formal request may not provide an immediate outcome because your employer has 3 months to get back to you, and they may refuse your request. You can ask your employer to respond in a shorter time-frame, or take some leave while your employer considers your request (see below).

See the section below for more advice if your employer refuses to let you work from home. 

Other options for taking leave: You may be able to use time off for dependants or unpaid parental leave. See our question on taking time off work if you have to look after someone who depends on you. 

Financial support:  if your income is reduced as a result of taking time off work or reducing your hours, see our financial support page for more information on what help is available.

My employer has refused to let me work from home because I have to look after my children

Your employer has the right to expect that during your working hours you are actually working. You could talk to your employer and reassure them that you will be working and explain to them how you will manage your work and childcare.

You could potentially argue that your employer has breached your contract: they are bound by the duty of mutual trust and confidence, which in these exceptional times would require employers to allow employees to work from home as much as possible. 

You could also tell them that if they think your performance is not up to scratch, they could treat it as a performance/productivity issue, but at least give it a try. 

If  you are a woman, you can argue that this kind of policy is indirect sex discrimination. A blanket ban of home working for parents with young children impacts more women than men because women tend to have more childcare responsibilities than men. If your employer has allowed some of your male colleagues (especially if they are also parents) to work from home, this could also be direct sex discrimination. 

I feel as though I am being targeted because I have children

You could potentially argue that your employer has breached your contract: they are bound by the duty of mutual trust and confidence, which in these exceptional times would require employers to allow employees to work from home as much as possible. 

If you are a woman with children, then being treated negatively or being forced to take unpaid leave as a result of childcare responsibilities could potentially amount to indirect sex discrimination, as childcare responsibilities impact women more than men.

This is especially important if you feel like your employer might be using a refusal of flexible working as an excuse to make you take unpaid leave when it could otherwise agree to more flexible arrangements.  You may wish to consider raising this to encourage your employer to agree your request, but try to do so in a neutral manner.

Testing and vaccine

My employer wants me to take a coronavirus test

Your employer may offer or encourage you to be tested for Covid as part of your job. If you are happy to be tested, then you should speak to your employer to make sure you feel comfortable about what will happen, before any test takes place.

It may be a good idea to check your employer’s workplace policy on covid testing, if they have one. Also, to discuss with your employer how the testing process will work:

  • How you will get your test results and who will have access to them;
  • What the process you should follow is if you test negative for Covid;
  • What the process you should follow is if you test positive for Covid;
  • What will happen to your pay and leave entitlement if you are asked to self-isolate but are unable to work from home; and
  • How your employer plans to use, store and delete your test results.

Remember that your employer’s Covid policy must be in line with Government guidelines; if you test positive for Covid, the Government requires you to self-isolate for 10 days.

Can I refuse a COVID test?

It can be a difficult situation if your employer is asking you to take a Covid test where you would not like to do so. Of course, your employer cannot physically force you to take a test against your will. However, they may be insisting that you get tested or risk disciplinary action or not being allowed to work and receive pay.

In order for your employer to require that you take a Covid test, their request must be considered a ‘reasonable management instruction’. This will depend on the particular circumstances of your employer and your workplace. For example, an instruction to take a Covid test or vaccination may be considered reasonable where you are unable to work from home and you work with vulnerable people and/or with members of the public. It may also depend on whether you are exhibiting Covid symptoms.

If you have Covid symptoms

Government guidance recommends that anyone with Covid symptoms arrange to be tested. Because your employer has a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees, it is likely that they will be able to instruct you or another employee exhibiting symptoms to take a test.

If you fail to follow your employer’s reasonable instruction to arrange a test, your employer is likely to be justified in taking disciplinary action against you.

If you do not have Covid symptoms

Your employer is legally required to take all reasonably practicable steps to reduce workplace risks to their lowest practicable level, and to take appropriate measures to make your workplace “Covid secure”. As part of these requirements, your employer may insist that you take a Covid test even if you do not have symptoms. This is because many people with Covid can be asymptomatic.

Whether this will amount to a ‘reasonable management instruction’ depends on your particular circumstances and the extent to which the risk of Covid could be managed by your employer in other ways. If, for example, the Covid risk in your workplace could be managed instead through social distancing or remote working, it is less likely to be reasonable of your employer to require you to be tested. If you work in an environment where you are in close proximity to colleagues (or the public) and social distancing measures are not possible, your employer’s insistence on you having a test is much more likely to be considered reasonable.

What to be aware of if you refuse a Covid test

If your employer is reasonable in insisting that you get a Covid test and you don’t have a good reason for refusing a test, your employer may be entitled to bring disciplinary action against you if you refuse to be tested.

Your employer will only be able to bring disciplinary action against you for refusing a test if your refusal is ‘unreasonable’. What is considered unreasonable will depend on your individual circumstances, however if you have a medical reason for refusing the test, this is more likely to be considered reasonable than, for example, a matter of principle.

Your employer may also refuse you entry to your workplace if you refuse to take a test if this has the effect of endangering other employees or customers.

What to do if you do not want the Covid test or vaccination

If you don’t feel like you would like a Covid test and your employer is asking you to have, you should discuss this issue with them. You should explain how you are feeling – if your grounds for refusing are reasonable, it may be that an alternative solution can be reached (e.g. where you are able to work from home instead of coming into the office). Your employer should give your reasons and suggestions for alternative arrangements serious consideration.

If you are concerned about taking the test for medical reasons, you should speak to your GP.

If you feel that these options are not suitable or you are not satisfied with your employer’s handling of the situation, you can seek independent advice on your options.

My employer wants me to get a COVID vaccine

Your employer may offer or encourage you to be vaccinated for Covid as part of your job. If you are happy to be vaccinated, then you should speak to your employer to make sure you feel comfortable about what will happen, before any vaccinations take place.

It may be a good idea to check your employer’s workplace policy on vaccination, if they have one. Also, to discuss with your employer how the vaccination process will work and what will happen to your pay and leave entitlement if you feel ill after being vaccinated and need to take time off.

Can I refuse to be vaccinated?

It can be a difficult situation if your employer is encouraging you to get a Covid vaccination where you would not like to do so. Of course, your employer cannot physically force you to be vaccinated against your will. However, they may be insisting that you get vaccinated or risk disciplinary action or not being allowed to work and receive pay.

In order for your employer to be able to insist that you get a vaccination, their request must be considered a ‘reasonable management instruction’. This will depend on the particular circumstances of your employer and your workplace. For example, an instruction to take a Covid test or vaccination may be considered reasonable where you are unable to work from home and you work with vulnerable people and/or with members of the public. You also may be required to recieve vaccinations as part of your job, for instance, if international travel is required or you work in a medical field.

What to be aware of if you refuse a Covid test or vaccination

If your employer is reasonable in insisting that you get a Covid vaccination and you don’t have a reasonable reason for refusing this, your employer may be entitled to bring disciplinary action against you if you refuse a vaccine.

Your employer will only be able to bring disciplinary action against you for refusing vaccination if your refusal is ‘unreasonable’. What is considered unreasonable will depend on your individual circumstances. However, if you have a medical reason for refusing the vaccination, this is more likely to be considered reasonable than, for example, a matter of principle.

Your employer may also refuse you entry to your workplace if you refuse to take a vaccination and this has the effect of endangering other employees or customers.

What to do if you do not want the Covid test or vaccination

If you don’t feel like you would like the Covid vaccination and your employer is asking you to have one, you should discuss this issue with them. You should explain how you are feeling – if your grounds for refusing are reasonable, it may be that an alternative solution can be reached (e.g. where you are able to work from home instead of coming into the office). Your employer should give your reasons and suggestions for alternative arrangements serious consideration.

If you are concerned about taking the vaccination for medical reasons, you should speak to your GP.

If you feel that these options are not suitable or you are not satisfied with your employer’s handling of the situation, you can seek advice on your options.

Financial support

Will I be able to claim any benefits while I’m off work?

Can I be put on furlough if I cannot continue working for childcare/caring reasons?

Yes, you can be put on furlough for childcare/caring reasons. See our dedicated page on furlough for more information. 

Other options available would be:

  • taking annual leave
  • using unpaid time off for dependants. Please note that time off for dependants only applies to employees (not workers or the self-employed).
  • Using parental leave. Parents who are employees and have at least one year’s service are entitled to 4 weeks of unpaid parental leave per year per child. There are notice requirements for the leave but in such circumstances your employer may waive these.

If you cannot agree working arrangements which enable you to look after your children and you are worried about the financial implications of taking unpaid leave, see our financial support page for more information.

Is there financial support if I have to take unpaid leave to self-isolate?

NHS Test and Trace & NHS COVID-19 app support payment

If you live in England and have tested positive for coronavirus or you’ve been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app you may be eligible for a £500 lump sum Support Payment.

You can get the payment if you’re employed or self-employed, on a low income, can’t work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating. You also need to be in receipt of one of the following benefits:

  • Universal Credit
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Income-Based Employment Support Allowance
  • Income-Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support
  • Housing Benefit or Pension Credit

You can make a claim for the Test and Trace Support Payment Scheme or a discretionary payment up to 28 days after the first day of your period of self isolation.

If you are not in receipt of any of these benefits you might be eligible for a discretionary payment from your local authority if you’re on a low income and will experience financial hardship due to not being able to work whilst self-isolating. You should contact your local authority to apply for the Test and Trace Support Payment. 

If the NHS COVID-19 app has told you to self-isolate because you’ve been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus, you will need to follow some additional steps to request your NHS Test and Trace Account ID

The Scottish and Welsh governments have announced similar payments. In Scotland it is called the Self-Isolation Support Grant. More information about the Welsh scheme is available here. 

The scheme in Northern Ireland is a discretionary fund and the amount awarded depends on who is living in the household. It doesn’t rely on you receiving benefits. 

This is linked to the new legal obligation to self isolate. Breach of the self isolation rules amounts to a criminal offence.  If you breach the rules you may be liable for a fine of between £1,000 and £10,000 for the most serious breach.

To apply, you need to check your local authority requirements but are likely to need to provide:

  • a notification from NHS Test and Trace asking you to self-isolate (this will include a Unique ID number)
  • a bank statement (showing the account details where the payment will be made)
  • proof of employment, or, if you are self-employed, evidence of self-assessment returns, trading income and proof that your business delivers services which cannot be undertaken without social contact

If you have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app and have been told to self-isolate and you fit into the above eligibility test you will qualify for a backdated payment.

Can I get sick pay if I’m off work?

You can claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you are off work because of a reason relating to coronavirus, if one of the following applies:

  1. If you are shielding in accordance with public health guidance because you are clinically extremely vulnerable and are considered to be very high risk to severe illness as a result of coronavirus, but only for the period you have been advised to shield.   If shielding is paused where you live, you will not be able to claim SSP after these dates unless you are actually sick or self-isolating in accordance with the Regulations. 
  2. If you or someone else in your household has or has had specific symptoms of coronavirus
  3. If you have been told to self-isolate by the NHS due to contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus, but only for a maximum of 14 days
  4. If you are signed off by a medical professional such as your GP (for any reason, including the effects of coronavirus)
  5. If you are shielding in accordance with public health guidance

Until the end of the current period of restrictions, those who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable and advised to shield by Public Health England are eligible for furlough or are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). If you are still unable to work because you are ill or if you are self-isolating, you may still be eligible for SSP

However, this could differ depending on where you live – so it would be good idea to check this with your local authority.

It is important to keep up-to-date with the separate advice for EnglandScotlandWales and Northern Ireland, and anything specific to your own area. Details of local restrictions for England can be found here.

If you or someone in your household is displaying symptoms and you are self-isolating

If you are self-isolating because you or someone in your household is displaying specific symptoms of coronavirus, you should be treated as on sick leave and so may be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. The symptoms are the recent onset of a continuous cough, a high temperature, a loss or change to your sense of small or taste, or any other symptoms which have been specified in guidance by the Chief Medical Officer or Deputy Chief Medical Officers for your part of the UK.  

To make it easier for people to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home, the government have developed an alternative form of evidence to the fit note, called an ‘isolation note’, that you can access online via the NHS website.

Your employer may have updated their sickness absence policies in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Check with your employer as regards your entitlement to sick pay and also the impact on your sickness record if you need to self-isolate.

If your employer doesn’t offer contractual sick pay, most employees will still be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP). To qualify for SSP, you need to be an employee and normally earn the lower earnings limit (£120 per week). SSP is paid at £95.85. Your employer can  pay you SSP in place of your salary whilst you are self-isolating. The government has confirmed that employees will be eligible for SSP from day 1 of sick leave when self-isolating to prevent the spread of coronavirus, rather than day four (the usual rule).

Though you can get sick pay if you are self-isolating, you could also be put on or stay on furlough. Furlough is likely to be more financially beneficial than SSP. 

You cannot get SSP if you are not self-isolating or shielding, unless you are actually sick.

Bear in mind that self-isolation (when you or someone in your household has symptoms and you should not go out even to go shopping, or you have been instructed by the NHS to stay at home because of contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus) and shielding (when you have to stay at home and avoid all unnecessary contact because you are clinically extremely vulnerable) are different from social distancing (when no-one in your household has any symptoms but you’re choosing to stay at home to avoid contamination).

Unfortunately, you’re only eligible for SSP if you are signed off sick (via a ‘fit note’); you are shielding  as per local guidance in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland); you have been formally told to self-isolate because of contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus; or if you are self-isolating because you or someone else in your household has developed specified coronavirus symptoms. You cannot claim SSP if you decide to stay off work for any other social distancing reasons.

If you are furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and become sick, your employer can decide to leave you on the furlough scheme, receiving your furloughed pay (80% or more of wages) instead of receiving SSP only. Alternatively, your employer may move you from furlough to SSP, if you are eligible. This may partly depend on whether they can claim the SSP back (SSP paid due to coronavirus can be reclaimed by the employer). You cannot get SSP and remain on furlough.

You may also be eligible for the Test and Trace Support Payment or equivalent which is available for those on low incomes. See above and check with your local authority as to how to apply. More information on GOV.UK.

Where can I go for more help?

To find out what government schemes will help if work has been affected by Covid-19, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) have created a decision tree to help you navigate what you may be entitled to, including whether you are eligible to be furloughed.


This advice applies in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details.

If you have further questions and would like to contact our advice team please use our advice contact form below or call us.

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The information on the law contained on this site is provided free of charge and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice to any person on a specific case or matter. If you are not a solicitor, you are advised to obtain specific legal advice about your case or matter and not to rely solely on this information. Law and guidance is changing regularly in this area.