With reports showing many businesses having faced an unprecedented volume of staff absences this week, following the surge in Omicron cases over the festive period, we thought it would be a good time to update you on the upcoming and existing COVID rules as they stand to date.
You should self-isolate immediately and get a PCR test (a test which is sent to the lab) if you have any of the following symptoms:
- A high temperature
- A new, continuous cough
- A loss or change to their sense of smell or taste
You should also self-isolate straight away if:
- You have tested positive for COVID-19
- Someone you live with has symptoms or has tested positive (unless they are not required to self-isolate, as per the rules stated below)
- You have been told to self-isolate following contact with someone who tested positive
If you are required to self-isolate, you must not leave their home (unless permitted by Government rules).
When to do a PCR test
If you suspect you have coronavirus or have a positive lateral flow test result (and have COVID symptoms), you must book a PCR test as soon as possible. If the PCR test comes back positive, you will then be entered into the NHS Test and Trace system, who will establish regular contact with you throughout your isolation period.
However, you will not need to have a PCR test if you test positive for Coronavirus on a lateral flow test (home test) and have no symptoms. In such instances, you should isolate for at least 5 full days from the date of your result. Individuals should also report their positive lateral flow result via the Government website, so they can be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
This new guidance only applies to positive asymptomatic cases, if you are showing COVID symptoms, you should still book a PCR test as soon as possible.
In line with the reduced self-isolation approach which came into effect today (Monday 17 January 2022), anyone who tests positive will be able to leave self-isolation at the start of day 6 since their initial positive test, if they receive 2 negative LFD results, 24 hours apart, on days 5 and 6.
Top Tip for Employers: Inevitably employers are anxious about how they can validate genuine COVID cases without evidence of a PCR result. We would encourage clients to introduce a policy which requires employees to report their lateral flow result via the Government website and provide their employer with evidence of this to qualify for SSP.
When don’t you need to self-isolate?
If you live with, or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, you will not need to self-isolate if any of the following apply:
- You are fully vaccinated – this means 14 days have passed since your final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine given by the NHS
- You are under 18 years and 6 months old
- You are taking part or have taken part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial
- You are not able to get vaccinated for medical reasons
Even you do not have symptoms, you are strongly advised to:
- Do daily rapid lateral flow tests (1 a day for 7 days), if you are fully vaccinated, to protect themselves and others from COVID-19
- Follow published advice on how to avoid catching and spreading the virus
- Consider limiting contact with people at greater risk from COVID-19
Upcoming changes for foreign travel
With effect from 4.00am on Friday 7 January 2022, you are no longer required to take a pre-departure test when travelling back to England.
Furthermore, the requirement to self-isolate on arrival until receipt of a negative PCR test result has been lifted. Those returning to the UK will now only need to take a lateral flow test no later than the end of Day 2 and, if positive, a further PCR test to help the Government identify any new variants at the border.
If an employee tests positive for COVID on return to the UK and are unable to work from home, they will be entitled to sick pay as per their contract of employment.
SSP Rebate Scheme Returns
The Governments temporary SSP Rebate Scheme is being reintroduced for small and medium sized businesses. This will enable Companies to claim back up to two weeks of their employees’ SSP for COVID related sickness absences from 21 December 2021.
The two-week limit will also be reset, so businesses can claim up to two weeks per employee, regardless of whether they have claimed under the previous scheme for that employee.
Your business will be eligible if:
- Is UK based
- Employed fewer than 250 employees as of 30 November 2021
- Had PAYE payroll system as of 30 November 2021
- Has already paid your employees COVID related SSP
Claims can be made through HMRC from mid-January onwards.