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Friday, 25 February 2022 14:39

The End of Covid?

As of yesterday, Thursday 24th February 2022, individuals in England who test positive for coronavirus, no longer need to self-isolate. The change in policy, announced the previous week by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is accompanied by a number of other changes in Covid-related rules, policies and guidance that have potential to foster a new set of challenges for employers.

Eligibility for sick pay from day one for Covid related sickness absence, is no longer in force and from 1st April, the current guidance for those who test positive to stay at home will be lifted. Also from April 1, Covid will no longer have to feature in company risk assessments and free mass testing will end. Government policy has clearly shifted towards one of individuals taking personal responsibility.

Whilst symptoms and the effects of the prevailing Omicron variant of Covid have been relatively mild for most, a proportion of the population remain vulnerable owing to underlying health conditions. More significant perhaps, are the reports suggesting that cases of hospitalisation owing to coronavirus are predominantly in those who have not been vaccinated.

Employers will now need to take a stance on their approach to Covid, and whilst this is likely to be influenced by a variety of aspects, the overriding factor must be the organisation’s duty of care towards its employees, and in some cases, it’s customers or clients.

We recommend that businesses continue with measures that help combat the spread of the virus such as plentiful ventilation, availability of hand sanitiser and maintaining regimes for cleaning and sterilising workstations, especially those that are shared.

As free testing is coming to an end, high street chemists are already offering deals on lateral flow testing kits. It’s probably unreasonable to expect employees to pay for their own tests so some businesses may want to consider providing tests for employees. However, what employers decide to do based on the results creates its own issues. If an employee presents themselves for work, despite testing positive, does the employer have a right to keep them away? And if the employee is sent home, should they receive full pay?

There will need to be a balance for employers between keeping their workforce safe at the same time as maintaining the security of individuals’ personal information. Now that working from home has become the choice of preference for many, justifying why some workers can remain working from home when others are required to return to the office, may be difficult to do without giving away sensitive health information.

Because being vaccinated has always been a personal choice for most, it may not be reasonable to expect individuals to declare whether or not they have been received the vaccine. However, employers may feel that this information is important to know in order to plan the safety of employees. Again, treating unvaccinated employees differently opens its own can of worms.

There’s not really a catch-all approach that we are able to recommend to employers. Instead, we think each situation will need to be looked at on an individual basis in order to understand the variables and give the best possible advice.

If the recent changes have put you in a position of uncertainty in how to deal with your employees then we’re here to help on 01452 331331 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Read 253 times Last modified on Friday, 25 February 2022 15:01

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