Employment Law Update: New Self-Isolation Obligations and Penalties

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Vina Madhavji considers the new self-isolation obligations and penalties in force from 28th September 2020.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 came into force on 28th September 2020. They apply to England only.

Under the regulations, an adult who tests positive for coronavirus on or after 28th September, or who has come into close contact with anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus, must self-isolate. (Regulation 2)

Where an employer is aware that a worker is required to self-isolate (including agency workers), the employer must not knowingly allow the worker/self-isolating agency worker to attend any place other than the location where they are self-isolating for the period of self-isolation. (Regulation 7).

The employer will not be liable were a worker attends a place in accordance with the regulations; examples of permitted reasons include seeking medical assistance, attending the funeral of a close family member, to obtain food and medical supplies for members of the same household, or to avoid a risk of harm. (Regulation 2 (3)(b)).

A worker is obliged to notify their employer if they are required to self-isolate as well as the start and end dates of the self-isolation period.  The notification must take as soon as reasonably practicable and in any event before they are next due to start work within the isolation period. (Regulation 8).

The requirement to self-isolate is legally enforceable by the police, the local authority or other government designated organisation. Where an individual leaves their place of self-isolation, they can be required to return to that location, and enforcement bodies may use reasonable force to that end. (Regulation 10).

A person who refuses to self-isolate without a reasonable excuse, or an employer who requires a worker to attend a place other than their location of self-isolation, is liable to criminal prosecution.

As well as an employer, the officers of the employer including directors, managers and secretaries, can be liable to criminal prosecution, where an offence is committed  due to the officers consent, connivance or neglect.

A fixed penalty notice of £1000 be issued for the first breach of the regulations without reasonable excuse. Subsequent breaches lead to higher penalty notices of up-to £10,000.

Higher penalties apply to those who, without reasonable excuse, fail to self-isolate and recklessly come into contact with another person or group.

The full text of the regulations can be read here.

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