The “pingdemic” crisis is placing many retail businesses under threat of total collapse, with major retailers reporting staff absences as high as 30 per cent.
While retail businesses, many already battered by pandemic closures, are facing store closures and empty shelves retail workers themselves are also being severely impacted by the crisis, with many unable to afford the time off work.
According to Patheon Macroeconomics’ Samuel Tombs, it is possible that around 2.7 per cent of the UK’s entire population was currently self-isolating, totaling around 1.77 million people.
Despite this, as many businesses have pointed out, government guidance on what you should do if you are “pinged” has been confusing and often contradictory.
Charged has tried to make sense of the various guidelines to provide a guide for what your options are if you have been asked to self-isolate.
Official NHS guidelines can be found here.
Can you go to work if I’ve been fully vaccinated?
On Monday the Prime Minister said that “critical workers” who have been double jabbed would be able to avoid the 10-day self-isolation period, including those who provide “food, water, electricity, medicines… and defence of the realm”.
However the definition of “critical” worker has been left largely ambiguous, and it is not entirely clear whether supermarket or supply chain workers are included.
One source close to a second cabinet minister told The Telegraph: “What counts as a critical worker? In my view, logistics would count. In my view supermarkets would count. In my view hospitality would count.”
On Tuesday the government said that businesses must ask government departments for specific exemptions from the rules, but it is understood only a “very low number of people” would be granted these exemptions.
What if I have not been vaccinated?
Here’s where official messaging steps from confusing to outright contradictory. But there are a few concrete rules that need to be adhered to.
If you are called directly by NHS test and trace services and told to self-isolate, then you are legally required to do so and no amount of negative tests will change this.
But if you are only pinged by the app and told to self-isolate it is understood that you are not strictly legally required to do so.
Yesterday two junior ministers suggested that that self-isolation under these circumstances was advisory, and that people were not legally obliged to do so.
Investment minister Lord Gerry Grimstone told one employer in a leaked letter that the app was an “advisory tool” with no “legal” force.
Business Minister Paul Scully also told Time Radio that “the app is there to allow you to make informed decisions… Obviously, it’s up to individuals and employers.”
Downing Street almost immediately distanced themselves from these claims however, with a spokesperson stating: “Isolation remains the most important action people can take to stop the spread of the virus.
“Given the risk of having and spreading the virus when people have been in contact with someone with Covid it is crucial people isolate when they are told to do so, either by NHS Test and Trace or by the NHS covid app.
“Businesses should be supporting employees to isolate, they should not be encouraging them to break isolation.”
Can I get compensation if I miss out on wages?
A £500 ‘Test and Trace Support Payment’ is available for workers on low incomes who are being forces to self-isolate.
You can apply if you have been notified by the NHS app to self-isolate but will be legally required to isolate for 10-days after applying.
If you are “unable to work from home and will lose income as a result of self-isolating” and receive income-based support allowances from the government you could be eligible for support.
While this service is available to through local councils, it is understood that around 60 per cent of applications are rejected.
Last month The Guardian reported that councils are refusing around six out of ten applications, rising to up to 91 per cent in areas like Hackney, London.
There has also been criticism of a lack of public awareness for the scheme, with around 80 per cent of people unaware they could receive compensation.
If you are not eligible for the scheme, the government advises that you could be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) while you are on sick leave or self-isolating.