Employment Law

Living with Covid: Guidance

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Living with Covid: Guidance

The Government have outlined that its objective in the next phase of the COVID-19 response is to enable the country to manage COVID-19 like other respiratory illness, while minimising mortality and retaining the ability to respond if a new variant emerges.
The Government have announced that from 24th February:

  1. The legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test for Covid will be removed. Adults and children who test positive will continue to be advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people but it is not a legal requirement.
  2. Fully vaccinated close contacts and those under the age of 18 will not be required to test daily for 7 days, and the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate will be removed.
  3. Self-isolation support payments and national funding for practical support will cease.
  4. Guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing will be removed.
  5. Routine contact tracing will end
  6. Workers will not be legally obliged to tell their employers when they are required to self-isolate.

From 24 March, the COVID-19 provisions within Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance regulations will end.  This means that SSP will not be payable for the first three days of absence from work and eligible employees that are not well enough to work will be entitled to SSP from day 4 of their absence.
From 1 April the Government will:

  1. no longer provide free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public in England.
  2. remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments. The intention is to empower businesses to take responsibility for implementing mitigations that are appropriate for their circumstances. Employers that specifically work with COVID-19, such as laboratories, must continue to undertake a risk assessment that considers COVID-19.
  3. replace the existing set of ‘Working Safely’ guidance with new public health guidance. Employers should continue to consider the needs of employees at greater risk from COVID-19, including those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. The Government will consult with employers and businesses to ensure guidance continues to support them to manage the risk of COVID-19 in workplaces.

Employers must remember that they remain subject to a duty to protect the health and safety of the workforce and will need to consider what appropriate measures need to be taken to continue to mitigate the risks of Covid in the workplace.  Businesses will now need to consider whether to put their own policies in place to manage Covid (and other infectious diseases) in the workplace.
The Government have indicated that further Guidance, in the form of Public Health Guidance, will be made available in the future.

Author: Sarah Edwards, Employment Law Solicitor at Howarths
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