Implications for employers of lifting Covid-19 restrictions

Implications for employers of lifting Covid-19 restrictions

Step 4 – implications for employers

The government has published its COVID-19 Response: Summer 2021 (Roadmap) setting out the details of step 4 of the roadmap out of restrictions for England. The restrictions are scheduled to be lifted on 19 July 2021.

The full guidance can be found here:
UK Government COVID-19 Response: Summer 2021

We have summarised below some of the key changes employers will be need to be aware of:

  • The government instruction to work from home where possible will be removed. Employers will be able to implement their plans for staff to return to the workplace.
  • All social distancing restrictions will be removed, including in workplaces.
  • The government will provide guidance on how employers can reduce unnecessary contact in the workplace, where it is practical.
  • Employers will be encouraged to ask staff and customers to clean their hands regularly and clean surfaces that people touch regularly. The Government will provide guidance on how businesses can reduce unnecessary contact in the workplace, where it is practical.
  • The legal requirements to wear a face covering will be lifted in all settings. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, published guidance will advise that wearing a face covering will reduce your risk and the risk to others, where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces. It is unclear whether this guidance will apply to all workplaces but employers will want to consider this guidance when conducting their own risk assessments.
  • Employers will still be encouraged to consider the supply of fresh air to indoor spaces. The roadmap suggests that carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors could be used to help identify where a space is poorly ventilated, with employers encouraged to take steps to improve ventilation if CO2 readings are consistently high.
  • People who are self-isolating should also continue to socially distance from others, particularly where they have had a positive test. However, we understand that government intends to remove requirements for self-isolation for those who are fully vaccinated and/or under 18 from 16 August 2021.
  • Until at least the end of September, self-isolation enforcement and support will continue. Positive cases and close contacts who cannot work from home and would experience financial hardship from isolation may be eligible for the £500 Test & Trace Support Payment or financial support.
  • The guidance generally notes that it is important to respect and be considerate of those who may wish to take a more cautious approach as restrictions are lifted. This is likely to be particularly enhanced for those who are clinically extremely vulnerable and employers will need to carefully manage the return to work of such individuals. Many of whom are likely to fall within the definition of disability for the purposes of Section 6 of the Equality Act 2010 and are therefore entitled to reasonable adjustments to any provision, criterion or practice implemented by their employer.

Our health and social care clients should also note:

  • Health and care settings should continue to maintain appropriate infection prevention and control processes as necessary and this will be continually reviewed; and
  • The government has already confirmed it will be mandatory from the autumn for all care home staff in England to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The roadmap confirms it also intends to shortly launch a consultation on whether COVID-19 vaccination should be mandatory for workers in healthcare and further social care settings such as domiciliary care.

The final decision on whether to move to step 4 on 19 July will be taken on Monday 12 July.

If you have any questions about how the lifting of the restrictions will affect the workforce in your organisation, please contact one of Hempsons’ employment team.