Employees, self-isolating to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, will receive Statutory Sick Pay from day one, instead of day four.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced the emergency legislation, which will be a temporary measure in response to the outbreak.
Explaining the rationale, the PM said: “We are not at the point yet where we are asking large numbers of people to self-isolate, but that may of course come if large numbers have the symptoms.
“If they stay at home, they are helping to protect all of us by preventing the spread of the virus.”
UK employment law expert Bob Cordran, partner at lawfirm Dorsey & Whitney, said: "The biggest challenge facing UK employers in the face of the coronavirus is balancing the need to protect their workforce from an uncertain threat while continuing as far as possible with business as normal while the situation develops."
However there are some concerns about whether this announcement goes far enough.
Cordran said: “It is positive that the Government has announced that statutory sick pay will be paid from the first day of sickness absence, however, an employee needs to earn £118 a week to qualify for SSP, so many low-paid and or part-time employees and some on ‘zero hours’ contracts do not qualify. The Labour party has asked for such employees also to be covered."
James Taylor from disability charity Scope said: “This is an overdue change. Our Statutory Sick Pay system needs to start from day one, all of the time.
“The health crisis that we face has highlighted the failings within the system that have long affected disabled people and many others. “Nobody should feel stuck working while unwell whatever the reason.”
There is a range of support in place for those who do not receive Statutory Sick Pay, including Universal Credit and Contributory Employment and Support Allowance. The move will be included in emergency legislation to deal with coronavirus.