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This is a fast-moving area and the paper should be read as correct at the time of publication (19.01.2022).

Since February 2020, the UK Government has had guidance in place, advising that people showing symptoms of Covid-19 and anyone in their household should self-isolate for a certain period.

In September 2020, a legal requirement to self-isolate was introduced for anyone who had been notified that they have tested positive for Covid-19, and for anyone notified that they were in close contact with a person who has tested positive. People who are notified via the NHS app are not legally required to self-isolate, although the guidance says they should. The legislation only applies to England but there is similar legislation in Wales.

Until recently, changes to self-isolation rules have been introduced through amendments to the self-isolation regulations.  However, recent changes to testing requirements and the length of the self-isolation period have been introduced through Government guidance only.

In a Statement to Parliament on 19 January 2022, the Prime Minister stated that the self-isolation regulations would expire on 24 March, and he expects they will not be renewed.  He said that, if the data allowed, the regulations could be lifted sooner, subject to a vote in parliament.

This briefing answers frequently asked questions on self-isolation and the financial support that is available to individuals who are self-isolating.

Self-isolation

The self-isolation regulations set out that a person required to self-isolate must remain at a specified address (usually their home) for 10 days. However, recent changes made through Government guidance mean that now a person may leave self-isolation after five full days if they do not have a high temperature and test negative with a lateral flow device test on day 5 and day 6.  

It is a criminal offence for a person to fail to self-isolate. Penalties begin at £1,000 for the first offence and £4,000 if a person who breached self-isolation had reason to believe they would come into close contact with someone, does come into contact with someone and is “reckless as to the consequences”.

It is also an offence for an employer to knowingly allow a self-isolating person to leave the place where they are self-isolating. Penalties begin at £1,000.

From 16 August 2021, people who are fully vaccinated, people under the age of 18 and people who cannot be vaccinated for clinical reasons are no longer required to self-isolate if they are notified that they are a close contact.  This exemption also applies to individuals under 18 years of age and those who cannot be vaccinated for clinical reasons.

Financial support while self-isolating

On 20 September 2020, the Government announced a new £500 lump sum Test and Trace Support Payment for people on low incomes in England required to self-isolate, who can’t work during self-isolation.

This followed an earlier announcement of pilots for a new scheme providing payments of up to £182 for people in areas with high Covid-19 rates, who are required to self-isolate. The Test and Trace Support Payment supersedes these plans.

To qualify for a Test and Trace Support Payment, a person must be employed or self-employed, and must normally be receiving certain benefits or tax credits. The Government estimated that just under 4 million people might be eligible for the payment. Local authorities administer the scheme and make payments to individuals, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care.

The support payment scheme applies in England only, although both the Scottish and Welsh Governments have announced similar schemes. In Northern Ireland, people can apply for a non-repayable Discretionary Support self-isolation grant, if they are on a low income and are experiencing financial difficulties due to self-isolation.


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