Fixer: Is my employee faking Covid symptoms for extra time off?

I’m not convinced her illness is genuine, and it’s having a huge impact on her small team

I work in a primary school, so employees can’t work from home. A member of non-teaching staff recently reported Covid-19 symptoms and has to self-isolate for two weeks – conveniently straight after half term – and I suspect she is pretending to get a fortnight off. She’s never been reliable, and I think she’s been looking to leave for some time, so it’s not out of character. Her team is small, so it’s having a big impact on others who are already stretched. She’s got an isolation note from NHS 111, but is there a more concrete way of getting proof that the sickness is genuine? 

There are people currently working in very difficult circumstances, such as those in education, while others have been furloughed and are being paid to stay at home. This might seem unfair to those still hard at work, and has led to resentment between these groups of staff.

Because the symptom-reporting process relies on people telling the truth, it is easy to get paid time off if they lie. However, if she has reported symptoms, she should arrange to take a Covid-19 test, and you should instruct her to send you a copy of the result. If it is positive then obviously she must remain isolated, but if it comes back negative she should consult Test and Trace to see when she will be allowed to return to work.

I know you believe that she may not be genuinely ill, but the law places an obligation on employees to inform their employer if they have tested positive and to self-isolate. Similarly, the regulations require employers not to force staff who have been instructed to self-isolate to leave their place of isolation (normally their home). Failure to do so can result in large fines. However, if she is self-isolating, but you hear from colleagues or see on social media that she is breaching the regulations, you can investigate further and potentially instigate disciplinary proceedings.