Here’s some questions that are frequently asked. We hope you find what you need here.
Q1 I have staff who have tested positive for Coronavirus and the self-isolation period crosses into their holidays. What do I pay them?
Any member of staff who is required to self-isolate should be treated as being off ill and we cannot assume that they will want to still take holidays. You should contact the employee and explain the circumstances and what the employee’s options are and the knock-on effect it will have on their pay.
Q2 What if the employee asks to be treated as being ill and be paid Covid-SSP and to be paid their Christmas holidays in lieu?
On the face of it, it sounds like a good idea – the employee gets some extra money, and you don’t have to arrange cover while they are on annual leave. However, the legislation is designed to give employees paid time away from the workplace for sound health and wellbeing reasons. You are not allowed to contract out of the minimum holiday entitlement by paying them instead. Only when an employee is leaving your employment and has accrued untaken leave can they be paid for it.
Q3 Several staff have tested positive or been contacted by NHS test and Trace as close contacts of a positive person and I am having to close the nursery for a few days. What happens to my staff who are double jabbed and Covid free and who are available to work?
Do you have any work that the staff might do from home? Are they willing to take paid holiday or unpaid leave at all? If none of the above apply have your terms and conditions a clause or section on “lay-off and short-time working” or is there anything of this nature in the staff handbook? If so, then to deal with a hopefully short interruption to the nursery you can lay someone off temporarily and the employee may be eligible for a Statutory Guaranteed Payment (SGP) of up to £30 per day for up to 5 days in a 13-week period. Find out more from ACAS’s page on Lay Off.
Q4 My employee has said they are too scared to come to work?
The general principle applies which is that employees should be “ready and able” to attend work if they are to be paid. If your employee expresses to you that they are fearful we would recommend you meet with them and ask them to explain what is causing them to be fearful. You may be able to assist. Maybe they need reassurance as to your updated COVID-19 risk assessment, maybe they would like to revise their start and finish times to avoid public transport. Talk to them and find out what is causing the concern and what can be put in place to mitigate the risks they perceive.
Q5 What if I have a staff member who has told me that they are self isolating as positive but I don’t believe them?
Q6 What if I need to consider redundancies in January?
If an employer needs to consider redundancies, they need to ensure that they follow a fair process which will mean consultation to try and avoid redundancies. If you feel you need to consider redundancies in January, we advise you let us know on the 4th of January so we can assist you.
Q7 Can we require unvaccinated staff to get vaccinated?
Vaccines are not mandatory, and we do not know that vaccines will be mandatory in Childcare. We do not believe that currently employers in childcare can make vaccination a requirement for employment. Please call us to seek advice as to your options. We do know that you can encourage vaccination.
Q8 My employee is double vaccinated but is at home looking after COVID-19 a positive child, is she entitled to COVID SSP?
It depends if she is told to self isolate by NHS Test and Trace (in England) if yes its COVID SSP, if not and she is unable to attend work as she doesn’t have childcare then she is entitled to time off for dependents which is unpaid.
Q9 Employee has been double vaccinated. Due to staff shortage has been moved into another room. Child tested positive, so employee now needs to LFT every day. Employee has now refused to work in another room – can they do this?
The guidance says that if they are double vaccinated they are ok to work but obviously all staff should do LFTs if there is a positive case. You can expect to move staff if it is a ‘reasonable management request’ but it would be worth discussing with them where there concern arises. Do they have vulnerable family members are they concerned it increases the risk of spreading? Is this a step that may avoid having to close the Setting whereby staff would be on reduced hours or Lay off on Statutory Guaranteed Pay? That might put it into context for them.
Q10 What if a member of staff, who has symptoms refuses to have a test?
If a staff member has symptoms and refuses to take a test, they are refusing a reasonable management instruction. The Government guidance is clear if you are symptomatic you must self-isolate straight away and book a PCR test. The employee is risking spreading the virus through the staff and children. And this could be a disciplinary issue potentially even gross misconduct as a serious health and safety breach.
Q11 If someone has to self-isolate as just come back from abroad and awaiting PCR test results, (i.e., because was on holiday not because of a close contact) do we assume this does not qualify for SSP?
They do not qualify for SSP unless they are suffering for symptoms in which case they must evidence a positive PCR test, or they have already tested positive for Covid.
Q12 I read that the COVID–19 SSP Rebate Scheme has re-opened. Is this true?
Yes, there is a temporary scheme to support employers facing heightened levels of sickness absence due to COVID-19. The SSPRS will refund small and medium-sized employers’ COVID-related SSP costs for up to two weeks per employee.
Employers can claim for COVID-related sickness absences occurring from 21 December 2021 onwards. This is a temporary scheme to support employers and the Govt. will keep the duration of the scheme under review.
Employers will be able to make a claim through HMRC from mid-January onwards, using this website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-back-statutory-sick-paypaid-to-your-employees-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19 .
For absences from on 21st Devember you can claim Coronavirus SSP for each employee. See link
Q13 My employee has had COVID-19 over Christmas and New Year can they return to work after 7 days if they have negative LFT’s?
That’s right in England and Wales if you take a LFT on day 6 & day 7 and they are negative the Government is saying you are no longer infectious and do not need to continue to self isolate. If you take a LFT and they remain positive you should continue for 10 days as they remain infectious.
Q14 What if I want someone to remain off for 10 days after contracting COVID-19 rather than return after day 7’s LFT?
If you ask someone to remain off work who would otherwise be able to return to work you are medically suspending them which has to be on full pay.