Can fully vaccinated employees choose to self-isolate?

Thursday 23rd September 2021

Legislation came into force on 16 August 2021 stating that people who are ‘double-jabbed’ are no longer legally required to self-isolate so long as they do not test positive for the virus themselves. Whilst previously the question had been whether employees could ignore being “pinged” on the NHS App, the question is now turning to whether employees who have been “pinged” can choose to self-isolate, despite being double-vaccinated.

Compelling staff to attend work when they prefer to self-isolate brings potential risk of constructive dismissal claims. Employers must therefore show reasonableness in the decision they make – can the employee work from home? Are they able to carry out their role as normal? If employees were unable to carry out their role at home there would be more justification for refusal.

The flip side is that employers will have to manage concerns from vulnerable employees regarding potentially infectious staff members too and actioned in in fulfilment of an employer’s general duty to ensure their workers’ health and safety (more of that below).

Employees who self-isolate voluntarily and cannot work from home will not be able to qualify for statutory sick pay and furlough will no longer be an option to employers, with the scheme coming to an end this month. Given the employee has chosen not to work, they do not have any right to be paid, however, you could use your discretion to agree that they use holiday.

If the employer wishes to compel an employee to self-isolate even though they are fully vaccinated, they can do so but they will be required to keep the employee on full pay as the employee would otherwise be ready to work. Alternatives would be the use of daily/weekly lateral flow testing, social distancing and PPE.

If you would like to discuss this further, then please contact one of our employment experts below. To view the full September Employment Law Update, click here: