Can you prevent an asymptomatic employee from attending work if they test positive for coronavirus?

The legal requirement for people who test positive for coronavirus (Covid-19) to self-isolate was removed in England on 24th February 2022. Yet, as an employer, you must still comply with your legal obligations to protect the health and safety of your employees and others.

The requirement to self-isolate after testing positive remains in place in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Employers in those regions must not require employees to attend the workplace in these circumstances.

The Government’s Living with COVID-19 document states that people who test positive ‘will continue to be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people.’ It is left to the individual to choose whether to take lateral flow tests after five days. The document states that individuals can safely return to their normal routine with negative results on consecutive days if they do not have a temperature.

To comply with your health and safety duties towards employees, you may encourage employees who test positive to stay at home. Remember your duties towards employees who are clinically vulnerable from coronavirus, where working alongside colleagues who have tested positive would put them at particular risk.

Allow employees who have tested positive but who are asymptomatic to work from home if possible. If they can’t, consider providing sick pay, even when this is not a contractual obligation or statutory entitlement, which will help avoid the spread of coronavirus infection if positive employees attend the workplace.

Until 24th March 2022, statutory sick pay (SSP) continues to be available for employees who have tested positive but who are not ill. The Government has said that entitlement to SSP will then revert to the pre-pandemic rules, and it will depend on incapacity for work.