Living With Covid Plan
The Governments ‘Living With Covid’ Plan
On 9 February 2022, the Prime Minister announced that he expected all Covid rules in England to be scrapped by the end of February. When this announcement was made, it was based on the assumption that the “current trends in data continue”. Hospitalisations and case numbers continued to fall and the Prime Minister presented his Living With Covid Plan to Parliament on 21 February 2022.
The Governments ‘Living With Covid’ Plan
On Thursday, 24 February, the legal requirement to self-isolate, in England, for individuals who test positive will end. The legal requirement will be replaced with guidance to stay at home for 5 days if feeling unwell with Covid-19 symptoms.
Those who are fully vaccinated and have been in contact with someone who later tests positive will no longer need to take daily lateral flow tests. Those who are not fully vaccinated and have been in contact with someone who later tests positive will no longer need to self-isolate.
Individuals are no longer required to tell their employer that they have been told to self-isolate.
Until 1 April, individuals who test positive are advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five full days and then continue to stay at home until they have received two negative test results on consecutive days.
From April, the Government will update guidance setting out the ongoing steps that people with COVID-19 should take to be careful and considerate of others, similar to advice on other infectious diseases.
The £500 Covid-19 support payment for those on low incomes will also end.
Statutory Sick Pay
The day 1 entitlement to SSP when testing positive for Covid-19 will end on 24 March 2022.
From 24 March, if an employee elects to self-isolate if they are COVID-positive but would otherwise be well enough to work, they will no longer qualify for SSP.
Close contact tracing will end on 24 March 2022.
From 21 February, the requirement for staff and pupils in education and childcare settings to take twice weekly tests has been removed.
From 1 April 2022, free testing will be scrapped for everyone in England with the exception of those who are high risk or vulnerable. Those who are no longer eligible for a free test will be able to purchase a testing kit.
From 1 April 2022, Covid Passports will no longer be required other than for international travel.
Workplace Risk Assessments
From 1 April 2022 the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments will be removed.
Impact On The Workplace
It will no longer be a criminal offence for an individual to attend the workplace whilst positive with Covid, and the likelihood of individuals testing before attending the workplace will reduce substantially once the free provision of testing kits ends. There is also likely to be a wider shift in attitudes towards Covid, with individuals increasingly likely to view it in the same manner as flu or the common cold. The lack of legal rules and changing views is likely to result in individuals attending the workplace whilst either positive for Covid or showing symptoms. It would be unusual for example for someone to take a week off work because of a cold. It may well be the case that only individuals with serious and/or debilitating Covid symptoms will take time off work, much the same as with flu.
The government’s working safely guidance, which can be found here, continue to apply and businesses who follow them will help reduce the risk of a successful claim in respect of s100(1)(d) and (e) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
- Purchase some testing kits for employees who are displaying symptoms of Covid and wish to take a test;
- Continue to encourage employees to be vaccinated;
- Keep in place rules on face-coverings, hand washing and other safety measures, which do no harm but might further reassure employees that the workplace is safe;
- Consider how you will manage employees who have Covid but are asymptomatic or not too ill to work; and
- Consider the risks in relation to clinically vulnerable employees or employee who live with clinically vulnerable, particularly if Covid positive individuals attend the workplace.
In summary, the government scrapping all rules on Covid does not mean Covid has gone for good. It is sensible to continue to be cautious, keep employees feeling safe, have a clear policy in place, keep an eye on what the market is doing and be adaptable to further change.
Developing your approach now will enable you to address any tricky issues that arise in the next few weeks as restrictions are lifted.
Employee Handbook Compliance Package