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Removal of COVID-19 restrictions: implications for employers

The Government has set out its plan for removing the remaining COVID-19 legal restrictions in England and has published a “living with COVID-19” document outlining the details.  Employers will now need to think quickly and carefully about how they will manage the impact of these changes in the workplace.

Key changes

From 24 February 2022:

—  The legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test ends. Adults and children who test positive will continue to be advised to stay at home for at least five days.

—  The legal requirement for individuals to tell employers when they are required to self-isolate ends.

— Close contacts who are fully vaccinated, and those under 18, will no longer be recommended to test daily for seven days.

— Close contacts who are not fully vaccinated will no longer be legally required to self-isolate.

— Routine contact tracing of close contacts ends.

— Self-isolation support payments end.

From 24 March 2022:

—  The rules allowing payment of SSP from day one of an absence relating to COVID-19 end.  Pre pandemic SSP rules will apply.

From 1 April 2022:

— Free lateral flow testing ends.

— Current guidance on voluntary COVID-status certification and the recommendation that certain venues use the NHS COVID Pass end.

—  The health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments ends.

—  Existing ‘Working Safely’ guidance will be replaced with new public health guidance.

—  Updated guidance will set out steps that people with COVID-19 should take to minimise contact with other people.

Considerations for employers

Whilst some employers will welcome the relaxation of COVID-19 rules and a return to some form of “normality”, many will be concerned by the lack of immediate workplace guidance which we understand will not be published until 1 April 2022.  Employers may want to implement a COVID-19 workplace policy now to enable them to bridge this gap effectively, mindful of the fact that any policy decisions will need to be re-visited when further guidance is available.

The following issues will need to be considered as part of that policy:

1.  How will the relaxation of the rules affect your existing hybrid and home working policies?

2.  Will employers require staff who are COVID-19 positive, but who are not too ill to work, to work from home (how long for?) or to come into the workplace?

3.  If an employee follows government advice and stays at home whilst COVID-19 positive, will they be entitled to SSP only?  Or will employers offer enhanced sick pay/full pay?

4.  Will employers ask staff to continue testing?

5.  Will employers decide to provide lateral flow tests for staff once these are no longer freely available?

6.  How will employers handle clinically vulnerable staff who are unhappy about working near to colleagues who are positive with COVID-19?

7.  How will employers monitor and enforce compliance with their COVID-19 policy?

8.  How will your risk assessments need to change?

These are difficult questions and they are likely to lead to employee relations issues and an increased number of staff grievances.  Managers will need clear guidance on how to proceed.  Our team of experts are on hand to help.

This update is for general purposes and guidance only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should seek legal advice before relying on its content. This update relates to the prevailing circumstances at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments. If you have general queries about our updates, please email: mailinglists@greenwoods.co.uk




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      By completing and submitting this form, you consent to Greenwoods Legal LLP processing your personal data to provide you with the email update services you have selected and any other materials and information about our services that Greenwoods Legal LLP reasonably believes will be of interest to you. You are free to withdraw your consent at any time by emailing mailinglists@greenwoods.co.uk