The rules on statutory sick pay are modified where the employee’s incapacity is due to coronavirus (COVID-19).
From 13 March 2020 (16 April 2020 in relation to employees who are shielding and 28 May 2020 for employees who have been notified about contact with an infected person), the right to statutory sick pay is extended. Employees who:
have isolated themselves to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus (COVID-19), because they:
- have coronavirus symptoms and are staying at home for seven days from when symptoms started; or
- live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms (and is therefore staying at home for seven days), and are staying at home for 14 days; or
- were staying at home for 14 days and develop coronavirus symptoms and are therefore staying at home for seven days from when their symptoms started;
- have been defined in public health guidance as extremely vulnerable and are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus because of an underlying health condition and have been notified that they should shield for a specified period; or
- have been notified (under the NHS test and trace service) that they have been in contact with someone who was infected with coronavirus, and are staying at home for 14 days from the last day of contact or, if sooner, until the date specified on the latest notification; and
- are unable to work because they have self-isolated,
- are deemed to be incapable of work and are therefore entitled to statutory sick pay (provided that they otherwise qualify)
This extension of the right to statutory sick pay was made by the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/287), the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No.3) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/427) and the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No.4) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/539).
Statutory sick pay is not normally payable for the first three qualifying days (known as “waiting days”). However, where an employee’s period of incapacity for work is related to coronavirus and the first day of incapacity fell or falls on or after 13 March 2020 where the employee is sick or self-isolating because they live with someone who has coronavirus symptoms, on or after 16 April 2020 where the employee is shielding, or on or after 28 May 2020 for employees notified under the NHS test and trace service, the requirement for waiting days does not apply as long as a period of incapacity for work is formed.
A period of incapacity for work is treated as related to coronavirus where the employee is incapable of doing the work that they can reasonably be expected to do under their contract of service because:
- they have been infected or contaminated with coronavirus; or
- they have isolated themselves in accordance with the rules above.
The waiting days exemption was introduced by the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/374), made under the Coronavirus Act 2020. See also Coronavirus support for employees, benefit claimants and businesses.
According to the Government’s Stay at home: Guidance for households with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, individuals with coronavirus symptoms should not visit their GP (but should arrange to be tested for the virus). Therefore, employers need to use their discretion in requiring medical evidence of sickness due to coronavirus. Where an employer does require such evidence, those with symptoms of coronavirus or who live with someone who has symptoms can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online (see Get an isolation note). Notification from the NHS test and trace service that the employee has been in contact with an infected person, can also be used as evidence. The HM Revenue and Customs statutory payments manual also provides that a shielding notification letter can constitute medical evidence.