Covid-19 response: Living with Covid

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On Thursday 24 February 2022, the Government removed all remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England. This means that anyone who now tests positive for Covid-19 no longer legally need to self-isolate.

As England adopts a “Living with Covid” approach, many people may be concerned about the transmission of the virus but what does this mean in an employment context?

Health & Safety of employees

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees and must action steps that are reasonably practicable to ensure that health and safety are protected. This duty also extends to the reduction of transmission of Covid-19.

Although the Government has lifted all Covid-19 restrictions, many employers are continuing to make sure that their premises are Covid-19 secure.

This can be done by the following:

  • recommending the wearing of face coverings by all employees and/or visitors to the premises
  • the use of social distancing or PPE/plastic screens where social distancing is not possible
  • utilising shift patterns and homeworking, i.e. half of a team form a “bubble” and are not in the workplace at the same time as the other “bubble”. This would ensure that should there be an outbreak, the entirety of a team is not affected
  • recommending frequent handwashing and providing hand sanitiser around the premises
  • utilising flexible working where possible
  • asking employees to regularly test for Covid-19 before attending the workplace (please note that tests will no longer be available for free from 1 April 2022)
  • asking staff not to attend work if they are testing positive or experiencing symptoms.

This is important to ensure the health generally of the workforce, the ability of the business to continue operating and to protect the business from related claims. However, from 1 April 2022, the Government will remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider Covid in their risk assessments with businesses becoming individually responsible for implementing their own appropriate measures.

Flexible Working

One way of reducing the transmission of Covid-19 in the workplace is the utilisation of homeworking, if possible.

This tactic was one of the first measures introduced by the Government in March 2020 to combat Covid-19 and we are seeing many employers still using the mantra of “work from home where you can”.

Flexible working during the pandemic also showed a lot of employees that they are able to effectively carry out their roles remotely and so, this has led to a lot more flexible working requests being submitted to employers.

Employers are only able to reject flexible working requests on certain specified grounds, and care should be taken when dealing with requests that are made, being particularly mindful around relevant protected characteristics.

Covid-19 Vaccination

Despite the lifting of restrictions, the Government’s advice is still that the general population should be vaccinated. Currently the meaning of “fully vaccinated” is receiving two doses of an approved Covid-19 vaccine and the Government are also still rolling out the ‘booster’ campaign.

There has been much discussion around whether employees are able to make vaccination mandatory and earlier this year we saw the Government revert on its plans to make vaccination a condition of employment for all health and social care workers. Additionally, as of 15 March 2022, it will no longer be a condition of employment for care home workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

If you have any questions about a mandatory vaccination policy, please do contact us for specialist legal advice.

ACAS suggest that employers recommend vaccination for all employees and this can be done by the following:

  • sharing approved scientific information by posters or directing questioning employees to official sources
  • employees, particularly senior employees who have received the vaccine sharing their experiences
  • paid time off for vaccination appointments.

Removal of Covid-19 Financial Support

Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

The Government has announced that from 17 March 2022, employers will no longer be able to claim back Statutory Sick Pay for their employees’ Covid-related absences or self-isolation that occurs after this date. Employers have up to 24 March 2022 to submit any new claims for absence occurring before 17 March 2022 or to amend claims they have already submitted.

After 17 March the rules revert back to normal meaning employers should revert to paying SSP from the fourth qualifying day if their employee is off work regardless of the reason for their sickness absence.

Self-Isolation Support Payments

From 1 April 2022, those on low incomes who test positive for Covid-19 or are asked to isolate will no longer be able to apply for a support payment of £500.

Contact our employment law solicitors today

If you have any questions or would like advice on any of the topics outlined above, please get in touch with our specialist Employment Law team through this website or by calling 0330 404 0768.

Our partners at Ashtons HR Consulting are also on hand to assist you.


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