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Self Isolation – what employers need to know

With immediate effect, employers and employees have new legal obligations following a notification via the test and trace service of the need to self-isolate because of a positive coronavirus test, or because the worker has come into close contact with someone who has tested positive.

What are the new obligations on workers and employers?

The new regulations introduce a wide range of measures designed to make self-isolation a legal requirement and making parents responsible for ensuring their children self-isolate where necessary.

  • Workers are legally obliged to notify their employers of their need to self-isolate, and the start and end dates of the isolation period, if they are expected to work anywhere other than their place of self-isolation (usually their home);
  • If an employer is aware that a worker or agency worker is required to self-isolate, the employer must not knowingly allow them to attend any place other than their place of self-isolation (usually their home) for work purposes, until the self-isolation period has ended.

When should an employee self-isolate?

An employee should self-isolate immediately if:
  • They have any symptoms of coronavirus (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
  • They have tested positive for coronavirus – this means you have coronavirus
  • They live with someone who has symptoms or tested positive
  • Someone in their support bubble has symptoms or tested positive (A support bubble is where someone who lives alone (or just with their children) can meet people from 1 other household.)
  • They have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
  • They have arrived in the UK from a country with a high coronavirus risk

If an employee lives with someone with symptoms or has tested positive, all other household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 10 days. The 10-day period starts from the day when the first person in the household became ill or if they do not have symptoms, from the day their test was taken. If anyone else in the household starts displaying symptoms, they must stay at home for at least 10 days from when their symptoms appear, regardless of what day they are on in their original 10-day isolation period.

If an employee develops symptoms, they must not attend work, they should advise any other employees that they may have had close contact with over the last 48 hours to let them know that you might have COVID-19 but are waiting for a test result. At this stage, those employees should not self-isolate, unless they develop symptoms or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

If an employee’s child is sent home from school due to another child having symptoms, unless the child has symptoms, the government’s Track and Trace guidance states that other members of the household do not need to self-isolate.


This summary is for guidance purposes only. Each individual matter should be considered on its own merit and advice taken where needed. Contact us with your queries.