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What does the end of Covid-19 restrictions mean for employers?

View profile for Hannah Maxwell
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What does the end of Covid-19 restrictions mean for employers?

The government has confirmed that from 19 July 2021, the UK will be entering the fourth and final stage of the COVID-19 response roadmap.

This means that, from 19 July, the government will lift the majority of legal restrictions relating to COVID-19. This includes the requirement to wear face masks, socially distance and the instruction to work from home where you can. The test, trace and isolate system will, however, remain in place, with changes to how that operates expected from 16 August 2021.

Although lifting the restrictions is generally considered to be positive for employers, the government has announced that it expects cases to increase and that ‘it is absolutely vital that we proceed with caution’. But what does the end of coronavirus restrictions mean for employers?

The government has indicated that it will be for employers to consider their ‘social responsibilities’. However, whilst the legal COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, employers still have a duty of care. They have a legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of staff. 

The current COVID-19 guidance for employers is:

 

  • Encourage a gradual transition when returning to the workplace. The government’s guidance on how to manage a gradual return and what employers will be expected to do in stage 4 is yet to be published. It is anticipated within the next few days. Current guidance can be found on the government’s website and we expect updated guidance to be posted there too. 

 

  • The clinically extremely vulnerable are encouraged to meet outside, if possible, or within a well-ventilated space. For this reason, it is unlikely that employers will be able to insist that those who are clinically extremely vulnerable have to return to the workplace.  

 

  • Whilst it will no longer be a legal requirement to wear a face covering it is expected and recommended that people continue to do so in crowded and enclosed spaces. For example, they will remain mandatory on London Transport. Employers should act reasonably when determining their own policies, carrying out and reviewing risk assessments as well as engaging with staff about arrangements. Adjustments should be considered. Reasonable adjustments should be made for individuals who have been exempt from wearing face coverings. Discussions should take place with individuals who object. 

 

  • The risks of close social contact should be considered, restricted and managed where possible. This means that the use, for example, of hand sanitiser and screening is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. 

 

  • Encourage employees to attend their COVID-19 vaccination appointment. With very few exceptions employers cannot mandate the vaccine, however, employers can take steps to encourage staff to attend their appointment. Examples include:
  •  promoting NHS guidance
  • drafting and promoting company policies
  • offering staff paid time to attend their appointment or if they are unwell following the vaccine

 

We anticipate further guidance from the government in the coming few days. If you would like advice about what the end of Coronavirus restrictions means for employers, please do not hesitate to contact me on 01206  217341 or hannah.maxwell@birkettlong.co.uk

 

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