What do employers need to do in response to the ‘Living with Covid-19’ plan?
Today’s removal of Covid restrictions is likely to cause some dilemmas for employers. On the one hand the removal of the legal requirement for people with Covid to self-isolate could provide some assurance that staff absences will reduce, but by the same token it will create concerns about how best to ensure that, as an employer, you continue to provide a safe place of work for staff and are staying on the right side of the law.
Employers will need to make decisions about the policies and procedures which are appropriate for their own workplaces. With further changes due to take effect from 1 April 2022, here are our thoughts on the policy considerations for employers now:
- Will you require employees to continue to routinely test for Covid and, if so, will you pay for tests once they’re no longer available for free?
- Will you require employees who experience Covid symptoms or who test positive to remain away from the workplace, even if they feel well enough to work?
- Will employees who have tested positive for Covid be required to notify you of that fact?
- If staff are permitted to come into the workplace, despite Covid symptoms or a positive test, will you implement any special arrangements, such as wearing face coverings, implementing distanced or separated workspaces, requiring a change in duties?
- If staff are not permitted to come into the workplace because of Covid symptoms or a positive test, will they be required to work from home? If they can’t work from home, how will that leave be treated and what pay will they be entitled to receive during that time?
- Whether any enhancements to company sick pay which you have implemented during the pandemic (for example, paying full salary to employees who were required to self-isolate but were otherwise well) will now be withdrawn
- Will you maintain any working practices that were introduced in response to Covid-related concerns as a matter of good practice – e.g routine handwashing/sanitisation; masks in communal areas; distancing measures; voluntary disclosure of health and vaccine status
- Continued consideration of Covid in routine health and safety risk assessments and communication of any Covid-related updates
Our view is that, as well as having clear policies and procedures which apply across your organisation, you should also consider whether different rules are appropriate for different employees or groups of employees. For example, it may be appropriate to implement additional protections for particularly vulnerable or unvaccinated staff or those staff members who work with vulnerable individuals or who have regular close contact with large numbers of individuals. For disabled employees, such considerations may well be a reasonable adjustment to your normal policies and procedures any way.
We are currently advising many employers on the continued challenges presented by the revised guidance. If you or your business needs advice on any Covid-related matter, please contact a member of the team or firstname.lastname@example.org