If an employee is advised to self-isolate to avoid the risk of spreading coronavirus, are they entitled to sick pay?

Current government guidance is that anyone who has a high temperature, a new continuous cough and/or a loss of, or change in, their normal sense of taste or smell should stay at home (ie self-isolate) for at least seven days from the onset of symptoms. If they live with others, everyone in the household should stay at home for 14 days, even if they have no symptoms.

People may also be advised by the NHS test and trace service to self-isolate if they have had close recent contact with someone who has coronavirus.

People who are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (COVID-19) because of certain underlying health conditions are strongly advised to "shield" by staying at home as much as possible.

Employees who are staying at home in accordance with government advice or advice from the NHS test and trace service, are entitled to statutory sick pay (SSP), even if they are not ill. The Government has introduced temporary legislation with the effect that individuals who are unable to work because they are self-isolating or shielding are deemed to be incapable of work for the purposes of SSP. Regulations extending entitlement to SSP to those who are shielding came into force on 16 April 2020. Prior to this, it appeared that the legislation covered only those who were self-isolating. Regulations extending entitlement to SSP to those who are self-isolating on the advice of the NHS test and trace service came into force on 28 May 2020.

Government guidance for people with underlying medical conditions (who are not advised to shield), those aged 70 and above, and those who are pregnant is to stay at home as much as possible and take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household. As the guidance does not advise these groups to self-isolate or shield, it appears that they would not be entitled to SSP under the temporary legislation. Employers should ensure that they comply with their other duties to protect these workers.

See Can an employer place an employee on furlough leave if they are off sick? for information on whether or not an employer can make use of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for employees who are self-isolating or shielding.