Following two years of a global pandemic, we are now moving to the stage of ‘living with Covid’, a phrase that we have heard increasingly often over recent months. There were further announcements by the Government for England on 21st February for Covid with most of the legal requirements ending on 24th February. The track and trace support payments and national funding came to an end as well. If someone was told to self-isolate before 24th February by Track and Trace, they can, however, claim for a support payment until 6th April 2022.
What does this mean from an employer’s perspective and what does ‘living with Covid’ look like for the workplace?
From 24th February, there is no longer a legal requirement for employees to self isolate if they have Covid; current guidance recommends staying at home for five days if they have symptoms or have tested positive. For employers this means that if you haven’t already, make sure that you review your current policy and, if necessary, issue a new one for all staff. You must ensure it is effectively communicated so employees understand the expectations. Employers, of course, need to consider the safety of their workplace for all employees and consider any staff concerns.
Living with Covid now means that employees who are unwell with Covid are entitled to sick pay as per the employer’s normal policy if they are unable to work due to illness, or cannot work from home whilst self-isolating. As a minimum, they must be paid based on Statutory Sick Pay (if eligible). However, from 24th March in England, staff will no longer be entitled to SSP for self-isolation, unless they are unwell.
Living with Covid also means that many more employees may be returning to the workplace after working from home for nearly two years. As an employer, you should consider how your workplace might re-open safely and make reasonable adjustments to your workplace. You may find that employees are requesting flexible working arrangements as they have found working from home allows them to meet family & other commitments and provide a better work-life balance. Employers should also still follow Government guidelines, such as keeping the workplace clean, maintaining social distance where practical and providing areas for hand washing and sanitisation. Face masks may still be required in certain circumstances (unless employees are exempt). You should also be aware that employees may choose to wear a face-covering even when they are not required.
If you’d like support as an employee or employer regarding the current Covid rules or your workplace policy, please get in touch with our employment law team. Please note this blog is based on the law within England; Covid rules in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland may differ.