Coronavirus (Covid-19): Sickness Pay and Leave Entitlements

Posted 19/03/2020

As the number of Coronavirus cases in the UK increases, the following provides a regularly updated summary of the likely situation with regard to employees’ pay and leave entitlement. Includes recent emergency Government changes to Statutory Sick Pay.

Employee with diagnosed Coronavirus

As with any other illness, an employer’s usual sick leave and pay entitlements would apply. These may involve an entitlement to statutory sick pay (SSP) unless the employee’s contract provides for more favourable contractual sick pay.

Changes to Statutory Sick Pay: An Update

The Government have announced emergency measures, to include:

  1. Those eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) due to coronavirus will get it from day one, rather than from the fourth day of their illness. Legislation will ensure this applies retrospectively from 13thMarch 2020;
  2. SSP will be payable to people who are staying at home on government advice, not just those who are infected, from 13thMarch 2020;
  3. Employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for;
  4. Employees requiring evidence that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus will be able to get it from NHS 111 Online instead of getting a fit note from their doctor
  5. Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim SSP for employees unable to work because of coronavirus. This refund will be for up to 2 weeks per employee.


Directed by employer not to come to work

In a situation where an employer (perhaps out of an abundance of caution) directs an employee not to attend work, either individually or via a published company policy, then the employee should receive their usual pay and benefits. This scenario may occur where an employee has returned from a known affected area and the employer asks them not to come in, or reports they have been exposed to the risk of coronavirus because they have been in the vicinity of someone who has been diagnosed, even though the individual shows no evidence of infection or illness.

Where companies have office based staff and the facility for remote working and working from home, many are encouraging employees to take home with them those pieces of equipment, such as laptops (and power leads), that would allow them to continue working from home in the event the employer deems it necessary to request the employee not to attend the workplace. In the event they are not unwell or their symptoms not such that they cannot work, they can still work from home whilst in self-isolation and receiving their full remuneration. Government advice on social distancing and self-isolation is under constant review; we will strive to update you here regarding any significant changes. Currently the advice is that all persons (whether or not within an at-risk group) should try to work from home if possible.

Time off for family and dependants

The Government announcement (18th March 2020) that most schools and nurseries are to close will undoubtedly cause significant disruption for parents and carers. Currently employees are allowed a “reasonable” amount of time off to deal with an emergency or unexpected event relating to a dependant person. For example, a school may close requiring the employee to stay home and care for a child. There is no set statutory limit on the length of any period of leave and employers are under no obligation to pay the employee. What is considered “reasonable” will depend upon the particular facts at the time. Employers are advised to have a clear written policy on how they deal with time off for dependants.

If the rules or Government guidance on time off are changed in the coming days we will do what we can to update you here.

If your business requires Employment Law advice regarding this or any other matter contact specialist employment lawyer, David Dixey, on 01376 320456 (Essex) or 01787 275275 (Suffolk) or email

David Dixey

Posted 19/03/2020 by:
David Dixey
Senior Chartered Legal Executive in Litigation & Employment Teams

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