In depth

Update 5: coronavirus advice note for employers

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced further measures to delay the spread of COVID-19. 

New Government guidance will have an immediate impact for employers dealing with employees and other workers absent due to Coronavirus.


For the second time in a week the Government has issued amendments to the statutory sick pay regulations. These extend the right to statutory sick pay to those that are now being advised through Government guidance to self-isolate as at 16 March 2020. 

Who does this cover?

The “Stay at home: guidance for people with confirmed or possible coronavirus (COVID-19)” advises that employees who have symptoms – a high temperature and a new cough – should self-isolate for a period of 7 days. 

On 16 March 2020 this was supplemented by new guidance for households. This advises that if the employee lives with others and any in the household have symptoms of coronavirus, then all household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the house became ill. Should another household member develop coronavirus symptoms in the 14-day household-isolation period, the isolation period does not need to be extended, but the person with the new symptoms has to stay at home for a further 7 days.

The advice remains that employers should relax any workplace rules in relation to sick notes. 

Further guidance on social distancing and for vulnerable people was also published on 16 March 2020. This relates to those who are at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. In particular those aged 70 or older, those with an underlying health condition and those who are pregnant. The social distancing measures suggested include: 

  •    Avoiding non-essential use of public transport; 
  •    Varying travel times to avoid rush hour when possible, and 
  •    Working from home where possible.

These are measures that are advised for every employee. However in relation to the vulnerable they are ‘strongly advised’.

As things stand right now, those in vulnerable groups such as anyone over 70 and pregnant women, would not be self-isolating if they refused to come into the workplace, and so would not qualify for SSP. It may well be that the position could change in the coming days and we will provides updates as things develop.

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