Lisa Townsend, a consultant solicitor in employment law at the national law firm Richard Nelson LLP, has the following advice for those concerned about sick pay rules in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Employers have a responsibility to ensure they have taken reasonable steps to keep their employees safe at work. As the UK has been warned that coronavirus will spread further over the coming days and weeks, employers must take action and ensure their existing policies around flexible and remote working have been altered. This will enable businesses to ensure their daily operations can continue to function should their area become infected and also that they can keep their employees safe.

“Employees are permitted to work from home with full pay, even if they are self-isolating, on the condition that they are well enough to carry out their work remotely. For those working in the garment industry, this can be more challenging as employees often do not have the correct equipment or facilities to work effectively from home. 

“For this reason, employees in the industry who have been asked to self-isolate are entitled to sick leave, according to health secretary Matt Hancock. Hancock has confirmed that coronavirus should be seen as sickness for employment purposes. Employees will therefore receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) during the time they are off sick. This is valid for up to 28 weeks, amounting to £94.25 per week. SSP is not typically paid for the first three days of someone being off sick or self-isolating, but Boris Johnson has promised sick pay from day one for all with suspected coronavirus. This new policy means SSP will be temporarily available to employees from the first day they are off sick, rather than the fourth day.

“Individuals must also be earning at least £118 a week to be eligible for SSP. Employers may offer sick pay their own contractual sick pay on top of this, but this will depend on the individual employer.

“Self-employed workers are not entitled to SSP if they self-isolate. Workers on zero-hour contracts are entitled to SSP, on the condition that they have completed some work for the company, been ill for four days in a row at least, and earned at least £118 a week before tax over a period of eight weeks.”