Changes to self-isolation rules: who is legally required to self-isolate and when?


19 August 2021

By Josh Fresle

As of the 16th August, the requirements of self-isolation have changed. So, who will have to self-isolate if they come into contact with a positive case?


The Government’s ever developing and (for the moment) easing of Covid-19 restrictions has now extended to new rules on self-isolation, which came into force on 16th August.

People who have received two doses of the vaccine (and who received the final dose at least 14 days before coming into contact with a positive case), and those under the age of 18 years and 6 months, will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if they come into close contact with a positive case.

Instead of self-isolating, those in one of the above categories are being advised to immediately take a PCR test if identified by Test and Trace as a close contact. You are only legally required to self-isolate if your PCR test is positive. There is also still a legal requirement to self-isolate for anyone who develops symptoms; even they fit into one of the above categories.

Anyone who is over the age of 18 years and 6 months and has not been fully vaccinated will still be legally required to self-isolate if contacted by Test and Trace.


With around 75% of people having been fully vaccinated, these changes should minimise disruption to businesses whose employees who fit into these categories will be able to continue to work where they would previously have had to self-isolate.

Those who are exempt from self-isolating may still be able to choose to self-isolate if they are identified as a close contact, although they may not be eligible for the same financial support as they would have if legally required to self-isolate. Additionally, employers may require those employers to come into work and this would likely be considered a reasonable management instruction.

Alternatively, an employer may not want to risk an employee coming into work if they have been identified as a close contact, even if they are fully vaccinated. In these circumstances an employer may be able to request an employee does not come into work so long as they have reasonable grounds to do so and the employee’s rights are met.

One problem that may arise for employer’s is ascertaining which of their employees have been fully vaccinated. Under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) there are certain types of personal data that require heightened protection. As vaccination data is data regarding one’s health, it is considered special category data. Generally, employers should have a clear and necessary reason for requiring proof of vaccination status instead of acquiring this data as a precaution.

If an employee is under a legal duty to self-isolate, the onus is on them to inform their employer. Any person who fails to inform their employer that they are under a duty to self-isolate, as well as any person who falsely informs their employer that they are not required to self-isolate, can receive a fine. An employer can also undergo their normal disciplinary procedures if an employee provides them with false information.

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.