‘Carrot and stick’: UK to pay self-isolating low-paid workers £500, levy up to £10,000 for breaches

(Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images).
(Photo: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images).

LOW-INCOME workers told to self-isolate from Sunday (28) will receive a government lumpsum payment of £500.

The government also announced that hefty fines – up to £10,000 – will be levied on people breaching self-isolation rules, in what was described a “carrot and stick approach” on Monday (21).

The Test and Trace support payment of £500 will apply to low-paid people who cannot work from home and have lost income as a result of self-isolation.

Describing self-isolation as “one of the most powerful tools for controlling the transmission of Covid-19”, a government spokesperson noted that the support scheme will help people on low incomes “self-isolate without worry about their finances”.

Local authorities have been directed to “quickly set up these self-isolation support schemes”, expected to be in place by October 12. People told to self-isolate starting from September 28 will receive backdated payments.

Meanwhile, the fines start at £1,000, similar to the penalty for breaking quarantine after international travel. But they could go to up to £10,000 for “repeat offences and for the most egregious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating”.

For instance, a government spokesperson said, business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy will be penalised, sending a “clear message” that such cases “will not be tolerated”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the “best way we can fight this virus is by everyone following the rules and self-isolating if they’re at risk of passing on coronavirus”.

“And so, nobody underestimates just how important this is… new regulations will mean you are legally obliged to do so if you have the virus or have been asked to do so by NHS Test and Trace,” he added.

“People who choose to ignore the rules will face significant fines. We need to do all we can to control the spread of this virus, to prevent the most vulnerable people from becoming infected, and to protect the NHS and save lives.

“And while most people are doing their absolute level best to comply with the rules, I don’t want to see a situation where people don’t feel they are financially able to self-isolate.”

As part of the plan, NHS Test and Trace call handlers will regularly contact people who are self-isolating, and will be authorised to “escalate any suspicion of non-compliance to local authorities and the police”.

Law enforcement resources will be deployed to “check compliance in highest incidence areas and in high-risk groups, based on local intelligence”.

They will also have powers to investigate and prosecute “high-profile and egregious cases of non-compliance”.