Test and trace and SSP
Key Contact: Claire Knowles
Author: Rebecca Mahon
Yesterday was the “big day”, when the 25,000 tracers working for England’s NHS Test and Trace team (and 700 tracers working for Scotland’s equivalent scheme) started contacting people who have tested positive for coronavirus with text, email or phone. Their aim? To trace who that person has come into close contact with. Close contacts are people you spend 15 minutes or more with at a distance of less than 2m and people you have direct contact with – such as sexual partners, household members or people with whom you have had face-to-face conversations at a distance of less than 1m. The contact must have taken place between two days before and up to seven days after symptoms appeared. The tracers will then make an assessment of whether anyone that has been identified as part of the “trace” is at risk of catching the virus. If they are, that person will be contacted with instructions to self-isolate for 14 days.
In a welcome development today, a further amendment to the coronavirus schedule of the regulations governing statutory sick pay (SSP) has been made. This amendment confirms that those self-isolating due to test and trace notification are deemed to be “incapable of work”, and therefore entitled to SSP. For the avoidance of doubt, this also means that up to 2 weeks’ SSP paid to someone who is self-isolating due to a track and trace notification can be recovered from HMRC.
It is worth noting that entitlement to SSP and reimbursement requires the person to have been advised by notice, and so will not automatically include members of the person’s household. This is confirmed in the guidance accompanying the new test and trace regime, which states “your household doesn’t need to self-isolate with you, if you do not have symptoms, but they must take extra care to follow the guidance on social distancing and handwashing and avoid contact with you at home.”.
There has been widespread criticism and concern about how many people will be told to self-isolate following a trace, and also the financial impact on that person (noting SSP is only £95.85 a week). How this is likely to impact businesses and the “restart phase” is as yet an unknown and guidance has been produced for businesses to help manage this. It is worth noting that in other countries (South Korea, Singapore, Norway, Austria, Iceland), contract tracing has been credited with helping to lift restrictions sooner.
Finally, for our Welsh clients, the plan for testing and tracing in Wales is due to be announced on Monday, but there remain concerns over whether this date will be achievable. Keep an eye on our social media feeds for the latest updates, and contact our employment team if you have any questions about paying employees who have been affected by coronavirus.
For more information, please contact our employment team.
Claire Knowles – Partner
Mark Alaszewski – Associate
Rebecca Mahon – Solicitor
Adam McGlynn – Trainee Solicitor