The 1st of April 2022 saw Covid guidance ending and some major changes to how we as a society live with covid being implemented.
Asymptomatic testing has been abolished altogether for most of the population and with free lateral flows also stopping from 1st April 2022, this will mean that there are more people than ever before carrying on with life, despite being covid positive. This will of course have an impact on Covid infection numbers raising, which they certainly have over the last few weeks.
In addition the government’s advice also changed on 1st April, advising that anyone with respiratory infections (including Covid), a high temperature or who feel unwell to stay at home and avoid contact with others. So technically those who are Covid positive are advised “to try to stay at home”, which is very different to previous months when there was a mandatory isolation period.
So with the easing of restrictions and society having to learn to live with Covid, where does this leave employers?;
- Employees are no longer under a legal duty to notify their employer that they have Covid, but this then poses the question if employers are not told if their staff have Covid, do they no longer need to manage the risk of Covid in the workplace? The 1st April also saw the removal of explicit consideration of Covid in Health and Safety risk assessments in the work place. However, employers still have a common law duty to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to employees and this has always been in place prior to the pandemic. For example requiring self-isolation to protect clinically vulnerable employees.
- If you are requiring staff to regularly undertake lateral flow tests, given that they are no longer free, as an employer you will need to decide if you are going to provide these to staff, so that they can regularly test or decide whether you are going to water down the requirement to regularly test.
- The Statutory Sick Pay rules have also reverted back to pre-pandemic. So the concept of “deemed incapacity” that was introduced as a direct measure under the amended SSP rules to deal with Covid no longer exists. Instead, employees must now actually be sick or incapable of work. Therefore those who are asymptomatic or indeed have mild symptoms will no longer qualify for SSP as they will likely be able to work. In addition SSP waiting days also reverts back to 4 days.
Employers have had to adapt and pivot many times already during the pandemic, and it is important that employers are updating their policies and processes accordingly to keep up with the latest government guidance.
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