A return to normality? Or a danger to the workforce?
It's been nearly two years since the UK was placed under Covid-19 restrictions for the first time. Now, we are no longer legally required to self-isolate following a positive test, and the self-isolation payments for those on low incomes are gone too.
Because of this, employers are being urged to stay vigilant, cautious, and to ensure they comply with their legal obligation to keep employees safe in the workplace.
This means that those who are ill with the virus will only be paid from the fourth day they are off work, as with any other illness.
“Free Covid-19 lateral flow tests and PCR tests will also be axed on 1 April, with the public and organisations being asked to buy their own tests.”
How will these changes impact employers?
“As it is no longer a criminal offence for workers to leave their homes and/or attend their workplaces while positive with Covid-19, combined with the fact that free testing will no longer be available, it’s unlikely workers will be testing themselves before going to work.
“As a result, employers may find they have employees with Covid symptoms in the workplace, which can raise difficult issues and decisions for them.
“It’s understandable that people might feel uneasy about coming into work if one, or several, of their colleagues have Covid-19 symptoms or actually have the virus. Employers need to ensure that a balance is struck between living with Covid and ensuring the safety of staff.
“Therefore, employers may want to consider reviewing their existing policies so that they can adapt to the changing Covid-19 environment.”
What steps should employers consider in light of the restrictions ending?
“Employers should continue to follow the government’s working safely during the coronavirus guidance, as this will reduce the risk of complaints and claims from staff who are unhappy with the changes.
“The removal of the legal obligation to self-isolate does not prevent employers from having their own rules or adding to their existing policies. For example, employers may say if an employee is displaying Covid-19 symptoms that they will be required to work from home for a set period.
“In essence, when deciding what measures to put in place, employers must consider the principles of what’s fair and reasonable, while simultaneously respecting that many staff members might be very concerned about coming into the workplace.
Employers may also encourage employees to be vaccinated and ask them to continue testing if an individual is displaying symptoms. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that these tests will have to be provided and paid for by employers after 1st April 2022 if it is the employer requesting them.
Additionally, businesses could ask workers to continue wearing face coverings, wash their hands regularly and retain other safety measures that reassure people that the workplace is safe.
“Ultimately, it’s down to each employer as to how they implement these changes in the workplace. However, it’s advised that employers revise policies, monitor the mood of the workplace, and continue to adapt working and living with Covid-19.
Written by Fox Whitemore
Fox is a 23 year old Media and Communications graduate from De Montfort University and currently working as an intern for Cross Productions. He is passionate about writing both creatively and journalistically, loves working with the local community and would love to be writing as a full time job in the future.