Absence and Self Isolation

On this page you will find information relating to the Absence and Self Isolation processes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Healthcare Improvement Scotland

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National Services Scotland

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NHS 24

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NHS Education for Scotland

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Public Health Scotland

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Scottish Ambulance Service

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    • Coronavirus - Absence and Self Isolation FAQsNational Services Scotland

      1.  If I am required to self isolate and am unable to work will I still receive my sick pay entitlement?



      2.  If I am required to self isolate and due to the circumstances I am unable to work my normal contractual hours will I lose pay?

      No.  If you have been medically advised to self isolate or are doing so based on NHS Inform guidance you will continue to receive your pay as if at work.


      3.  What should I do if a member of my team contacts me regarding concerns about a possible Coronavirus infection?

      First thing is to calmly ask for further details:

       - Does the employee have any potential coronavirus symptoms?

       - Has the employee had any contact with someone who has been diagnosis with coronavirus?

       - Has the employee sought medical advice?

       - What are the employee’s emergency contact details?

      NHS Inform guidance should be followed to determine next steps.


      4.  What should I do if a member of staff is unwell and reports concerns regarding possible symptoms of Covid-19?

      They should be advised to follow NHS Inform guidance in relation to self-isolation.

      It is very important that you stay at home if you have symptoms that may be caused by COVID-19.   Self-isolation will be required.

      Individuals with symptoms of Covid-19 should self-isolate for 10 days from the day the symptoms first commenced. 

      If you do not live alone, all other household members should self-isolate for 14 days (commencing at the same point as the individual), even if the household members do not appear to have any symptoms themselves.

      Absence of this type should be recorded on SSTS as “Special Leave – SP/32 Coronavirus – self isolating

      Please Note - Self isolation will not count towards sickness absence triggers.

      Line Managers should ensure that they have up to date emergency contact details for the individual. The member of staff then has a responsibility to keep in contact with their line manager to advise on their condition and any additional medical advice received.


      5.  What if a member of my team takes unwell at work and the symptoms resemble those of Coronavirus?

      The advice given by ACAS and relevant information sources regarding staff taken unwell at work is as follows:

       - Social distancing - keep a minimum of 2 meters apart from others within the office

       - Go to a room or area behind a closed door, such as a sick bay or staff office

       - Avoid touching anything

       - Cough or sneeze into a tissue and bin it.  Alternatively, cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow

       - Use a separate bathroom from others if at all possible

      The unwell member of staff should use their own mobile phone to call either:

       - NHS 24 (111) for advice, or

       - An ambulance (999), if they are seriously ill or their life is at risk. 

      NHS Inform advises anyone who is displaying symptoms of Covid-19 to self-isolate for 7 days from the date the symptoms first commenced. 


      6.  Where a member of staff has received a medical diagnosis of Covid-19 – what should they do?

      They should remain off work and keep in regular contact with their line manager to keep them advised of their condition.

      Absences of this type should be recorded on SSTS under the category of “Special Leave – Coronavirus – COVID-19 Positive”.


      7. Where a member of staff has received infection control advice to self-isolate due to being in contact with someone who is displaying symptoms of coronavirus – what should they do?

      They should remain at home for the period of time advised.

      If they are fit and well, symptom free, and can work from home they should do this where possible.

      Alternatively, where the control of infection advice requires that the member of staff remains off work, for a period of time before symptoms develop, this absence period will be considered as “Medical Exclusion”.  Please update SSTS accordingly.

      Arrangements should also be made for the employee to keep in regular contact during the period of self-isolation – to keep the manager advised of any developments and the likelihood of returning to work following completion of the isolation period.


      8.  A member of my team is due to return to work after self isolating for 10 days.  What is the return to work process?

      flowchart has been created to help Line Managers with return to work discussions. 

      It is important that the employee is well, symptom free and has not had a temperature for 48 hours prior to their return.

      Should you have any further concerns regarding the employees fitness to return please contact OHS for further advice and support.


      9. I have been identified as a *close contact for someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, do I automatically have to self-isolate?

      No, as part of the revision of the Scottish Government Framework, health and social care workers are able to return to work provided you are double vaccinated (with the 2nd dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 2 weeks prior to exposure to the case), have no COVID-19 symptoms (i.e. a new continuous cough or high temperature of 37.8 or above or a loss of, or change in normal sense of taste or smell) and return a negative PCR test taken after exposure to the case.

      *a close contact can either be a passing close contact or a contact of someone within their immediate household.


      10.  What certifications does an employee need to provide if they are off work for more than 7 calendar days?

      A certification for self-isolation can now be obtained on the NHS Inform website. The site can provide you with an electronic note if you have been advised to stay at home because of Coronavirus.

      The following link will direct you to the site. Completed forms should then be emailed to the employees Line Manager with a copy retained on the employee’s HR file.

      NHS Inform Self-Isolation Certificate


      11.  What happens if a staff member in my team refuses to come to work as they believe that they are at a high risk. The staff member does not have symptoms, or in a household with symptoms or an underlying condition that would require them to self-isolate and a risk assessment has been undertaken as well as advice from OH that states that they are fit for work?

      Many staff and managers will be feeling anxious about attending their work premises in these unprecedented times.  Where the person is fit to attend work, it is important for the manager and the employee to discuss the employees rationale for refusing to come to work and to try and resolve their issues by exploring what their concerns are e.g if they normally travel by public transport and they are anxious about now doing so, could they use their own car? NSS is making every effort to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place within each workplace to ensure the health and safety of staff and that social distancing and hygiene rules are adhered to. 


      12. What happens if an employee refuses to attend work because a family member has a condition that requires them to self-isolate. The staff member will not attend work as they are scared to put their family member are further risk?

      Many staff and managers will be feeling anxious about attending their work premises in these unprecedented times. The manager should seek to reassure staff that NSS is making every effort to ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place within each workplace to protect the health and safety of staff and that social distancing and hygiene rules are adhered to.


      13. If I am absent with COVID-19 or symptoms of COVID-19, will this count towards the sickness absence triggers?

      No. Absence associated with COVID-19 is recorded as Special Leave and does not count towards the sickness absence triggers. However, all other sickness absences procedures will apply in line with the NHS Scotland Attendance Policy.


      14. A member of my team has now been on sick leave for over 7 days due to non COVID-19 related reasons. They have not been able to get a GP appointment with their GP get a 'fit note' until next week. What should I do and how should I record this on SSTS?

      It is recognised that currently, due to volume of COVID-19 related workload, it may be taking longer for GPs to arrange appointments with staff who are absent on sick leave. If a member of your staff informs you that they are unable to obtain a fit note because their GP appointment is delayed, make a note of this and record the absence on SSTS as normal up to the date of the scheduled appointment. Keep in touch with the staff member and ask them to send you the fit note as soon as this is received.


      15.  What COVID-19 symptoms should I look out for and, if I have symptoms, what are the self isolation requirements?

      An update to Government guidance (as issued on 18th May 2020) now identifies the following as the 3 most common COVID-19 symptoms:

      - A new, continuous cough (coughing for more than 1 hours or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours)

      - A fever/high temperature (37.8C or greater), and

      - Anosmia (a loss, or change in, your sense of smell or taste)

      If you live alone and you develop any of the above symptoms, please stay at home for 10 days from the date your symptoms commence and until any fever has passed.

      If you live with others, the person who has symptoms should stay at home for 10 days from the date their symptoms commenced.  All others within the household should isolate for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms themselves.  If others within the household develop symptoms during the 14 day isolation period, they should stay at home for 10 days from the day their symptoms commenced.  This should be done even if it takes them over the 14 day isolation period.

      Full guidance on symptoms and isolation requirements can be found on NHS Inform, including access to Isolation Notes for your employer.  Details on testing and how to book can also be found at the same site.


      16.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, operations, post-op rehabilitation and other treatments have been delayed or cancelled and this has impacted upon an individual member of staff’s ability to return to work. Consequently, an individual may have gone on to reduced or nil pay and/or hit sickness management triggers. How should managers approach the management of such cases?

      Managers should always be supportive where staff have not been able to access timely treatment or support to aid their recovery and return to work, and particularly now as a result of the pandemic.

      The AfC Terms and Conditions Handbook states that periods of sick pay on full pay or half pay can be used in order to ‘materially support a return to work’: or ‘in any other circumstances’ (section 14.13). Using section 14.13, flexibilities will mean sick pay is maintained and staff do not hit nil pay where treatment or rehabilitation is delayed by COVID-19. However, if any staff have dropped to nil pay while the local absence management processes have been paused, section 14.10 - 14.12 mean they are entitled to have half sick pay reinstated after 12 months’ continuous absence until such time as local processes have concluded.

      The terms and conditions of service for medical & dental staff make similar provision for the extension to normal periods of sick pay entitlement.

      These flexibilities should be used, where possible, as a means of supporting staff whose treatment or recovery has been delayed because of the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic. Managers need to treat each case on an individual basis and consider what options are available to avoid an individual going on to reduced or nil pay such as, home working, or redeployment into an alternative role or changes to working hours.

      As detailed in DL(2020)5 issued on 13 March 2020, if an employee’s symptoms are consistent with COVID-19 their absence must be recorded as Special Leave and this absence will not be counted towards sickness absence triggers.


      17.  Where members of staff are required to undergo pre-op or post-op self-isolation, what should they be paid?

      In the first instance, a manager should explore all options regarding an individual’s ability to work from home with or without work role reallocation. If an individual is unable to work from home then because self-isolation is an official requirement, due to infection control measures, staff would be entitled to be paid COVID-19 special leave for the duration of their requirement to self-isolate.  

      The same approach, including the opportunity to undertake work from home (even if not in their substantive role), should be applied where the NHS has advised a member of staff that they must self-isolate because someone in their household is undergoing an operation.

      Any post-operation recovery would be paid as per normal sickness entitlement, except where the individual was fit to return sooner than the duration of the self isolation where the difference would be paid as COVID-19 special leave.


      18.  How should we use a phased return to support a member of staff who is returning to work after being off sick with COVID-19?

      The general provisions for phased return for all NHS staff are set out in the NHS Scotland Workforce Attendance Policy, as amended by STAC(TC02)2020.  Occupational Health advice should be sought, where appropriate, as to the duration and adjustments need to support the individual in their return to work.  

      In some cases, occupational health may advise a longer than normal period of phased return in order to successfully support an individual who has been ill with COVID-19, or has had COVID-19 work-related mental/psychological illness, back to work.  In such circumstances, an extension to the usual maximum of four weeks normal contractual pay may be required.

      Injury Allowance (as set out in Section 22 of the AfC Terms and Conditions Handbook) can also be paid to eligible staff (including medical and dental staff) who seek to return to work but who may exhaust the full pay provision normally offered locally due to the length of the phased return required.


      19.  If an employee returns to work following a period of being off sick with COVID then becomes unwell again, which may be as a consequence of having had COVID-19, what provisions apply?

      If the Employees fit note confirms that their subsequent absence has been caused by COVID, they will be paid COVID-19 Special Leave as detailed in DL(2020)30.


      20.  I have just received my COVID vaccination but I am now feeling unwell.  If I am absent from work on sick leave for this reason will this count towards my sickness absence triggers?

      Should you feel unwell following your vaccination and you are unable to work please contact your line manager as soon as possible, following normal sickness absence reporting procedures.

      Any sickness absence, for this reason, in the 48 hours following your vaccination will not count for trigger purposes.


      21. What measures have been put in place to mitigate any risk for my return to work?

      Staff members would be expected to return to work applying the following mitigations:-

      • The staff member performs a daily LFD test for 10 days following their exposure.
      • The staff member records the results of the daily LFD and informs their line manager of the outcome.
      • The staff member must adhere to the infection prevention and control appropriate to the setting in which they work
      • PPE should be worn in accordance with the relevant Scottish COVID 19 IPC addenda.


      22. What if a staff member declines the daily LFD testing?

      In this case the staff member should not work in any clinical setting during the isolation exemption period.  Staff will be expected to return to work if asked to do so.


      23. Can I work during the period of taking the LFD tests in my normal work area?

      This would be determined by the area in which you work. The staff member should not work with high clinical risk patient’s/service users.  High clinical risk groups would include patients on chemotherapy, immune-suppressants such as pre/immediately post-transplant, those who have profound immune-deficiency and other high clinical risk patients who are not vaccinated.  This is not exhaustive and local line managers may determine other groups as fitting with the high clinical risk category.

    • Coronavirus- how to record any absence from a staff member. SSTS new absence codesNational Services Scotland, Public Health Scotland

      New SSTS absence codes have now been set up to deal with the various possible COVID-19 related absences.

      If you are a line manager, please remember to keep this system up to date following the new codes:


      SP - Coronavirus – Covid 19 Positive
      Employees who have tested positive for the virus

      SP - Coronavirus – Self displaying symptoms – Self Isolating        
      This will record a staff member who is displaying symptoms and allow testing of key workers to be targeted (original self-isolating reason)

      SP - Coronavirus – Household Related – Self Isolating                 
      Someone in the household of the staff member is displaying symptoms

      SP - Coronavirus                                                                             
      This will record those who have caring responsibilities and are absent due to these

      SP - Coronavirus – Underlying Health Condition                            
      Staff member has Underlying Health Condition  putting them in the at risk category

      SP Coronavirus - Quarantine
      Staff member is required to quarantine (see Guidelines in Circular DL(2020)20)