The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has said that the NHS Test and Trace system should provide employees who have to take time off from work to self-isolate with full pay. He considers that this would increase people’s engagement with the system.
He has been reported as saying that providing full pay to employees are who required to self isolate would be akin to the position of employees who are absent from work on jury duties.
This note considers what an employee who is called up for jury service is entitled to and then puts this in context in relation to the NHS Test and Trace system.
Time off for jury service
Employees can take time off for work if they are called up for jury service. Employers must not subject employees to any detriment or dismiss them as a result of being summoned to attend for service as a juror.
But employers are not required to pay employees during jury service absence. Employers may choose to offer some pay as a matter of policy, but they are not obliged to do so.
Employees on jury service can claim for travel and food expenses and for loss of earnings from the court. But the amounts that can be paid are subject to caps. In England and Wales, for a full day’s jury service (defined as more than 4 hours on any day), the maximum daily allowance is:
- £64.95 for the first 10 days of jury service.
- £129.91 between day 11 and 200 of jury service.
- £228.06 for day 201 and subsequently.
So for some people, the allowance that can be claimed from the court might amount to full pay, particularly for those serving 11 days or more. But it is not quite correct to say that employees on jury service are already entitled to full pay.
For example, if we take the maximum allowance for the first 10 days of jury service, and assume the employee works 5 days a week, then this gives an equivalent annual salary of £16,887, which is some way below the national average salary.
Self-isolation and sick pay
The current position is that an employee who is unable to attend work, or work from home, due to being required to self-isolate after an instruction from NHS Test and Trace, is that they are entitled to only statutory sick pay (SSP). SSP is currently paid at the rate of £95.85 per week, which for a 5 day a week employee works out at £19.17 per day.
The concern of Andy Burnham and others is that few people could afford to live on SSP. For anyone who cannot do their job from home, taking two weeks off work to self-isolate on SSP is going to make a dent in their finances and potentially leads to less people fully complying with the test and trace scheme.
Providing pay to employees who are self-isolating in a manner akin to jury duty does not mean that everybody will get full pay. But it would certainly be an improvement on the current position and may lead to people being more willing to fully engage with the NHS Test and Trace service.
It does not appear that Mr Burnham has suggested who should pick up this cost of his proposal. Presumably it would be either the government or employers.
The government may point to the numerous schemes already in place to support employers, including the job retention scheme, in arguing that employers should pay. Many employers will respond that they are already experiencing very difficult trading conditions and the prospect of having to pay absent staff for two weeks, especially heading into the autumn and concerns about a second wave, would be too great a burden to bear.
We will have to wait and see if the Mayor’s proposal gets taken any further.