Boris Johnson has announced an end to all legal restrictions in England.
So, what is the plan?
From 21 February:
- Staff and students in most education and childcare settings no longer have to test twice weekly.
From 24 February:
- The legal requirement to self-isolate will end meaning that people who have Covid will no longer have to stay at home. However, guidance will remain in place for those who test positive to stay at home and avoid contact with others for at least five full days.
- Self-isolation support payments of £500 for people on low incomes will end and no longer be available.
- You will no longer be legally required to self-isolate if you are an unvaccinated close contact and will no longer be advised to test for 7 days if you are a fully vaccinated close contact.
- Workers/employees will not be legally obliged to tell their employers when they are required to self-isolate.
From 1 April:
- The Government will no longer provide free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for most people in England.
- The use of Covid passports will no longer be recommend, except for international travel.
The Government will remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments.
- The Government will replace the existing set of ‘Working Safely’ guidance with new public health guidance.
What does this mean for employers?
- It will no longer be a criminal offence for a worker/employee to attend the workplace if they have Covid.
- With tests no longer being free, workers/employees are much less likely to test and will attend the workplace whilst either positive or displaying symptoms.
- It will likely end up with Covid being viewed the same way as a cold or flu and only workers/employees with serious Covid symptoms will take time off work, much the same as with flu.
- Regardless of the law, the changes may cause difficulties in the workplace and employers could be faced with new challenges such as workers/employees attending the office when they are positive and/or have symptoms.
- Workers/employees may want to avoid coming into contact with Covid positive individuals and may refuse to attend the office/workplace because they feel unsafe. Employers may wish to review their existing policies and/or implement new ones.
What is the advice to employers?
Businesses should be mindful of any potential health and safety claims under s100 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Employers have a duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business and must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this.
Get in touch to find out how we can help and support you and your business in light of ‘living with Covid’.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org , connect with us on LinkedIn and drop us a message – Peach Law (HR & Employment Law Specialists) or pick up the phone and give us a call – 0161 478 3800.
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Article written by Lucy Croft (Employment Lawyer)
Correct as at 22 February 2022