Clarity on the rules is needed.
We’ve quickly listed the most prevalent rules on self-isolation and staying safe. Below we’ve also provided details for businesses and risk assessment guidance:
- Safe spacing has ended – you don’t have to stay 2 metres apart from other people
- You can meet with any number of people indoors and outdoors
- You don’t have to work from home. You can go back to working from your usual place of work
- You don’t have to wear a face mask. It has been advised to wear one on public transport and in crowded areas.
- Any number of people can go to weddings, funerals and other events
- You can dance and sing
- Any number of people can go to a place of worship
- All businesses, venues and nightclubs can open up
- You can order at the bar in pubs, cafés and restaurants and you are able to drink standing up
- Any number of people can go to sports events, concerts or business events
The basic government advice on healthy living now includes:
- Be outside when possible
- Make sure there is plenty of fresh air indoors
- Not get too close to people you don’t live with, especially not for long periods of time
- Carry on wearing a face mask in crowded places and on public transport, like buses and trains
Workers no longer have to self-isolate if their close contacts contract COVID. New rules only apply if workers are fully vaccinated. Changes made on the 16th August 2021 to the UK’s self-isolation rules need to be noted by employers and managers:
Individuals that are “double-jabbed” and received their second dose more than 14 days prior or are under 18 years old will no longer be legally required to self-isolate. If the aforementioned fully vaccinated individuals contract COVID, they would still have to isolate for the required 10 days, but if they merely come into contact with someone with the virus, they are under no such obligation.
Previously, those identified as close contacts of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 were required to self-isolate for 10 days, starting from the date of the last contact. Instead, individuals who have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case or contacted by the NHS Test and Trace system are encouraged to take a PCR test as soon as possible – but will not strictly be required to isolate for any period of time. Whilst other precautions such as avoiding vulnerable people and crowded areas or wearing a face covering are encouraged, self-isolation is no longer legally required.
Those who do test positive for COVID-19 themselves must still self-isolate regardless of their age or vaccination status. While those who develop COVID-19 symptoms should still self-isolate pending the result of a PCR test.
What Do The New COVID Regulations Mean For Businesses?
In theory, these changes should translate into the workplace given that employers have suffered repeated unavoidable staff absences due to self-isolation requirements. But how will business owners be affected by the changes?
We are finding some employers are wanting to continue to follow the earlier self-isolation rules where employees continue to self-isolate when they have been in close contact with a confirmed positive case – even if they have a negative PCR test result in line with the new guidance.
Conversely, we have employers of vulnerable individuals who, regardless of their vaccination status, remain at risk of infection and will need a risk assessment to be carried out in the workplace.
For full risk assessment guidance, contact us.
Self-isolation is no longer a legal requirement for the fully vaccinated, but will this affect my business?
Over the last 18 months we have seen a definite increase in the number of employees working from home. Some employers have continued to adopt this approach beyond the response to COVID-19 and it indeed continues to be a valid option during periods of self-isolation be it a legal requirement or employer preference.
What businesses need to remember about coming working during COVID restrictions:
- The employee is not legally required to self-isolate and is not therefore eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) or the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.
- Employees who are awaiting a PCR result under the new guidance are unlikely to qualify to receive SSP as there is a minimum requirement of 4 days spent self-isolating before they become eligible and a test result is unlikely to take that long.
- An employer can reasonably dictate when an employee takes their annual leave, though taking annual leave when not legally required to do so is unlikely to be considered as “reasonable”.
- Assuming the employee is fit, able and willing to work it would appear in these circumstances that the employee ought to be paid their usual rate of pay during periods that an employer requires they self-isolate from the workplace beyond the Government guidelines.
- Another common query is whether an employer is permitted to ask an employee about their vaccination status or see proof. The short answer is yes. However, there is a slightly longer consideration which must be kept in mind. When collecting information of this kind an employer will be collecting special category health data and the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) has published advice requiring that the data must be necessary and relevant for a specific purpose; but if there is a good reason, then processing the data will be lawful. We consider that collecting the data for “substantial public interest” to prevent the spread of the virus, for example, would make processing the data lawful.
As with most employment relations we encourage businesses to be open and communicate with their employees, which will often allow issues to be resolved quickly and informally.
For more information on running a businesses or to talk about this matter with one of our team, contact us below.