As health is a devolved issue, each country in the UK has its own system for tracing individuals at risk from covid-19 because they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive. The regulations requiring a person to self-isolate in such circumstances are also different in each country.
Only in England can individuals be subject to a criminal penalty if they fail to self-isolate where they have tested positive or have been in close contact with someone that has tested positive. These fines start at £1,000 and increase on each offence, so on the fourth and subsequent occurrence the penalty is £10,000.
An employee is required to tell their employer that they need to self-isolate. If the employer then lets the employee return to the workplace before the isolation period is complete the same penalties apply to the employer, but again only in England.
To encourage individuals to self-isolate when required to, low paid individuals can apply for a £500 one-off grant from their local authority, if they can’t work because of the self-isolation and thus will lose money.
At present this Test and Trace grant can only be claimed from English authorities by individuals who are employed or self-employed, who also receive one of these benefits:
- Universal Credit
- Working Tax Credit
- Income-based Employment and Support Allowance
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income Support
- Housing Benefit
- Pension Credit
The claim for must be made within 14 days of the end of the period of self-isolation. Each person in the household who is self-isolating can claim this grant if they meet all of the conditions. The grant is subject to income tax, but not national insurance.
It is not clear whether individuals who are in receipt of statutory sick pay will also be able to claim the £500 grant, or how these taxable grants will affect claims for universal credit or other benefits.