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Forum Home  →  Discussion  →  Coronavirus (COVID-19)  →  Thread

SSP, are you self-isolating, shielding etc?

Barbara Knight
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Been looking at the new SSP rules and I quote
“; or
(c)he is—
(i)isolating himself from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland(2) or Public Health Wales(3) and effective on 12th March 2020; and
(ii)by reason of that isolation is unable to work.”

So I am at home self-isolated (but not vulnerable or need shielding, I’m doing what the government has told me to do - stay at home and as a result can’t work) and not ill so I can claim SSP?

I can’t find the 12th March guidance which I am guessing would remove this idea, does anyone know where I can find a copy?
Cheers

Paus17
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The requirement to follow the 12 March has been replaced by a requirement to follow guidance issued on 16 March.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2020/304/pdfs/uksi_20200304_en.pdf

Barbara Knight
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Cheers for that all 3 web site links in the explanatory notes reach ‘404- not found’, anyone know another way of finding the 16th march info?

Daphne
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The explanatory note says -
[quoteThat guidance is published in digital form only on the following websites:
http://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information for the public; http://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/ato-z-of-topics/wuhan-novel-coronavirus; and www.phw.nhs.wales/topics/latest-information-onnovel-coronavirus-covid-19/.

Clicking on the English one said page not found but a link on that page took me to - https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

the employment support bit takes you to https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay which then takes you to you can get SSP if you meet the criteria on https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-stay-at-home-guidance

So it’s if you’re self-isolating because of your own infection or someone in your household - basically people who can’t even go to the shops for essentials - that’s my understanding for what it’s worth

 

Ruth Knox
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It looks to me as if the advice is divided into 3 parts:  self-isolating for those you have, or think they have the disease.  Shielding for vulnerable groups, including anyone with severe asthmatic conditions, and social distancing for the rest of us.  My reading is that the SSP regulations apply to the first two groups but not to the third.

Ianb
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My reading has been the same as Daphne. On that basis those who are advised to shield and protect, along with the vulnerable, are not deemed to be sick and not entitled to SSP.

Also discussed here https://www.rightsnet.org.uk/forums/viewthread/15791/

Self-isolation is going to be 7-14 days which is why the provision for employers to recover SSP from the government is, to the best of my knowledge, limited to 14 days.

One absurdity of this, as I see it,  is that self employed were told that if self-isolating they could claim ns-ESA. But as they are only treated as sick for a maximum 14 days they are claiming, and DWP are processing, a claim which has a maximum value of £146.20.

[ Edited: 26 Mar 2020 at 08:12 pm by Ianb ]
Ruth Knox
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Yes - it’s the same issue with ESA of course. If your and Daphne’s interpretation is right then this presents a real problem for that group of people (which is a limited group - it seems to me you can’t self-define).  The government advice on shielding says
” We are strongly advising people with serious underlying health conditions (listed below) which put them at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus (covid-19) to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe.  Shielding is for your personal protection. It is your choice to decide whether to follow. (the example they give is of terminally ill people) ... You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face to face contact for a period of 12 weeks. “

The amending regulations for SSP say
(i) “isolating himself from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England….. and
(ii) by reason of that isolation is unable to work.

I think it is clear that the people who are actually contacted by the government or who are overlooked but have one of those limited conditions - are acting on advice from the government. I think it is clear that they are isolating themselves from other people .....
So I think that we can interpret the SSP regs in this way (and the ESA regs which have slightly different wording). 

So unless we have an interpretation of “isolate” which is confined to people who actually have COVID 19 only then can’t we put the people who fall into the “shield” group in the same category.

Otherwise we have the ridiculous situation of the government writing to people strongly advising them to isolate but legislating to deny them sick pay if they do. Can this be what they intend?

[ Edited: 27 Mar 2020 at 10:11 am by shawn mach ]
Ruth Knox
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But perhaps (for ESA)  they are covered anyway by the existing regulation 29/35 ?  For the shielding group it is undeniable that (a) they have “some specific disease or bidily or mental disablement and (b) because of that there would be a substantial risk to their mental or physical health if they were found not to have a limited capability for work.  So, in terms of medical evidence,  instead of needing a sick not (FIT note) they have a letter from NHS England specifically saying that.  (I don’t know if there is something equivalent to reg 29 in the SSP regs?)

This still leaves a sizable group - say with different levels of asthma - who might not be identified by NHS England - but it would at least deal with this contradiction of giving strong advice but not allowing people to take it.

Elliot Kent
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If you have a serious health condition - e.g. COPD - and the combination of this and covid-19 means that it would be unreasonable for you to go to work for medical reasons, then the GP ought to be able to issue a fit note. The unfitness for work is still a consequence of the medical condition.

The NHS letter could be treated as a substitute under the medical evidence regulations.

It doesn’t really matter is reg 29 is satisfied because the WCAs aren’t going ahead.

Ruth Knox
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Thanks Elliot - I suppose I didn’t ,mean regulation 29 but the situation (i.e. would endanger your health if workiing) that Reg 29 describes in the WRA test.  I think the crucial point is the one you made though, that someone in that situation could anyway get a note from GP (unlikely in current situation) and other medical evidence such as the advice from NHS is just as good (in this case compelling). So there should be no question of not getting SSP or ESA in these circs (I know I am mixing up two different benefits here, but the underlying principles are the same).  The only difference from the group who are actually self-isolating is that the person caring for them would not be considered entitled to benefit (in ESA it is only if it is a child who is ill anyway).

Ianb
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I would still point to the fact that the government describes self isolation in terms of a 7 or 14 day period. It has provided that employers can recover the cost of SSP but only for a maximum of 14 days.

This suggests to me that they do not consider that people they are advising to stay home for 12 weeks should be getting SSP because if they did they would logically support the employer by reimbursing them for this time too.

I note also that in respect of the Job Retention Scheme it says that employees who are sick or self-isolating should be paid SSP and cannot be furloughed whereas those who are staying home can be furloughed (if the employer chooses). Again this suggests that social distancing and protecting are not treated in the say way as self-isolation.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#employees-you-can-claim-for says
“Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get Statutory Sick Pay, but can be furloughed after this. Employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough.”

However the argument that many (but not all) in these groups will have other health conditions which would justify the issue of a Fit Note makes sense (although I dare say GPs will not be impressed by this). On the other hand if they have an employer willing to furlough them they are better off not declaring themselves sick.

Ruth Knox
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I think, although there would be an argument in terms of the wording of the legislation,  my interpretation on this was wrong. It now seems clear that the government is interpreting “isolation” solely in terms of those who have, or may have, the virus, and members of their household, and that it intended it apply for 14 days maximum.  But what are people who are “shielding” (whether or not they have been written to) to do?
(a) In many cases these people may already be claiming a sickness benefit but some may not be - we all have clients with dialysis for instance who continue to work.
(b) I think anyone who has been written to or texted by Public Health England has something equivalent to a sick note and would not need to ask the GP for anything further. 
(c) This would not cover anyone in the same household or caring for a child who was shielding, but this might not occur often
(d) The new guidance on “furlough” could be used by many of those “shielding”
(e) We would expect good employers to interpret the legislation so that employees who need to shield would be paid contractual sick pay (but would they be able to reclaim the SSP element of this?)
(e) There will still be people who fall through the net - they have not been identified by Public Health England, they don’t fit the conditions for furlough and would normally be working. These are the people who may have to resort to the GP?  I can’t think of any other way in which they can stay at home without losing their income from work.

Ruth Knox
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Oh, I have realised that the “good employers” would more likely opt for furlough for their shielding employees, rather than contractual/statutory sick pay

Ianb
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Ruth Knox - 28 March 2020 11:02 AM

(e) We would expect good employers to interpret the legislation so that employees who need to shield would be paid contractual sick pay (but would they be able to reclaim the SSP element of this?)


The provision to recover SSP is limited to 14 days (to match the maximum period of self-isolation envisaged)

 

[ Edited: 28 Mar 2020 at 04:48 pm by Ianb ]
Ianb
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Ruth Knox - 28 March 2020 11:05 AM

Oh, I have realised that the “good employers” would more likely opt for furlough for their shielding employees, rather than contractual/statutory sick pay

But they cannot do this unless the business is in difficulty and needs to furlough their employees. So an employee of a supermarket, for example, probably cannot be furloughed as the supermarkets are busy recruiting.

Ruth Knox
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Yes, so where their employer is not affected people who are shielding would have to fall back on (a) conventional sick note from GP or (b) the advice sent to them by Public Health England.  I think either of these should entitle them to SSP if they would be normally entitled, but, reading the new SI 374, it looks as if the 7 waiting days is not suspended in this case.

Ianb
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Ruth Knox - 29 March 2020 11:50 AM

Yes, so where their employer is not affected people who are shielding would have to fall back on (a) conventional sick note from GP or (b) the advice sent to them by Public Health England.  I think either of these should entitle them to SSP if they would be normally entitled, but, reading the new SI 374, it looks as if the 7 waiting days is not suspended in this case.

Are you sure that the letter to the extremely vulnerable people constitutes grounds to be treated as sick - I still haven’t found anything that says this.