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The sick and the Isolating

Published 24 Mar 2022

Staff catching COVID-19 or becoming a household contact and having to isolate is probably the biggest challenge for businesses currently. Few businesses remain totally unaffected.

If a staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 whether symptomatic or not you are sick by definition, and sick leave applies. Payment for that will depend upon the staff's current sick leave entitlement. They have to self-isolate for 7 days after the day their symptoms started or the day that they got tested if they don't not have any symptoms. They can self-release after this providing they have no further symptoms. They do not need to await an official text message nor take another test. The advice is that RAT tests often still show a positive result at this point, but the person is no longer considered infectious.

If they are a household contact they still need to self-isolate as above, unless they can work as a bubble of one (see below). However, unless they test positive or have symptoms they are not 'sick' and this falls outside the qualification for any sick leave entitlement under employment law. As such this is beyond the employer's obligations for payment unless the person can perform their role while self-isolating.

Both scenarios above still potentially qualify for an employer application for the Leave Support Scheme (LSS), and in good faith and consultation could be applied for.

Once someone has had COVID-19 they do not need to isolate again for 3 months if someone else in their household tests positive during that time.


If someone is COVID-19 positive they need to register it with the Ministry of Health either by using the online My Covid Record or phoning the Government helpline on 0800 222 478. Upon registering the result they will receive a confirmation txt from the Ministry of Health (txt # 2328 or 2648).

You as an employer have an onus of proof and justification to obtain and keep records for your compliance with any application for the LSS and Health & safety of your staff and business operation. You are justified in asking an employee to prove the same if you suspect their claim be COVID-19 positive is not entirely true.

For more information on registering RAT test please see the following Government site:

Bubble of One

Household contacts are currently permitted to continue working under Phase 3 of the Omicron response provided the following can be adhered to:

  • Mandatory mask wearing
  • No customer interactions
  • Worker is vaccinated against COVID-19
  • Works alone
  • Eats/takes breaks/toilets alone
  • No symptoms

If you intend to ask staff to attend work as a household contact under these circumstances we would strongly recommend going further than this and consider the following steps also:

  • Undertake your own internal risk assessment of the working scenario
  • Discuss with other staff members
  • Masks must be N95 or P2 compliant
  • All exterior doors and windows to remain open or ajar where possible to maximise ventilation.
  • Extra sanitation products to be supplied in close proximity to machinery.
  • Any shared machinery must be sanitised after the use by a household contact.
  • Person's workstation and all common touch points will be sanitised daily after shift complete.