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Living safely with Covid-19 in the workplace

Since the majority of the Covid-19 restrictions ended on 24 February 2022 and free lateral flow tests ended for many on 1 April 2022, the UK Government has recently released guidance in relation to managing Covid-19 in the workplace. This guidance was released, and came into force, on 1 April 2022. The guidance applies to England only. 

What to do if you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, including Covid-19 and you have a high temperature

  • Try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people: The Government has recommended that you try to work from home if you can, and if you are unable to work from home, to talk to your employer about options available to you. It also recommends that it is particularly important to avoid close contact with anyone who you know is at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell if they are infected with Covid-19.
  • If you leave your home: avoid close contact with anyone who you know is at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell, where the following actions are recommended to reduce the risk of passing on infection:
  • Wearing a well-fitting face covering made with multiple layers or a surgical face mask.
  • Avoiding crowded places such as public transport, large social gatherings, or anywhere that is enclosed or poorly ventilated.
  • Taking any exercise outdoors in places where you will not have close contact with people.
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser after coughing, sneezing, and blowing your nose and before you eat or handle food; avoid touching your face.

If you have a positive Covid-19 test result, in addition to the above:

  • It is recommended that you try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least five days after the day you have taken your test.

What to do if you are a close contact of someone who has had a positive Covid-19 test result:

  • The Government advises that people who live in the same household as someone with Covid-19 are at the highest risk of becoming infected because they are most likely to have prolonged close contact. People who stayed overnight in the household of someone with Covid-19 while they were infectious are also at high risk.
  • It is recommended that if you are a household or overnight contact of someone who has had a positive Covid-19 test result it can take up to 10 days for your infection to develop. 
  • Notably, there is no recommendation to work from home.
  • There is also no mention of how sick pay rights are dealt with in these cases.

Other significant changes:

  • There is no longer separate guidance for people previously considered to be critically extremely vulnerable and they are advised to follow the standard guidance.
  • Separate guidance applicable to adult social care settings from 4 April 2022 has been published, which addresses issues such as testing, vaccination, personal protective equipment, and risk assessments.
Melanie Pimenta

Senior Solicitor

View profile

+44 118 960 4653

The UK Government has recently released guidance in relation to managing Covid-19 in the workplace. This guidance was released, and came into force, on 1 April 2022.

What actions are being encouraged to take to reduce the spread of respiratory infections, including Covid-19 in the workplace?

The Government has focused on encouraging the ‘tested’ ways of reducing the spread of Covid-19, namely:

  • Encouraging and enabling vaccination. The Government has stated that vaccinations have been found to be highly effective at preventing serious illness from Covid-19, flu and other diseases and it is being recommend that workforce gets fully vaccinated. This shifts the burden to employers to manage those employees who are unvaccinated and/or untested.
  • Ensuring there is sufficient ventilation.
  • Maintaining a clean workplace, including cleaning high-touch surfaces, such as door handles, desks, equipment, etc. and staff using sanitiser. 

Notably, the requirement for every employer to explicitly consider Covid-19 in their health and safety risk assessment for those who are at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 (particularly for older people, those who are pregnant, those who are unvaccinated, people of any age whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness, people of any age with certain long-term conditions) has been removed since 1 April 2022, however we would recommend that you continue to undertake risk assessments which cover Covid-19.

Employers are required to comply with its health and safety obligations by maintaining a safe place of work, and continue to comply with the requirements for cleaning, ventilation, and welfare facilities in the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 or the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 to control occupational health and safety risks. 

What should employers consider?

Where this guidance is deemed to be long-term, employers should consider the following:

  • The Government has now expanded the list of symptoms, and this may cause an increasing number of  cases. Employers should review and update its sickness absence policies considering the changes.
  • Determining the situations when employees should be sent home if they have any of the listed symptoms.
  • Considering if you want to bear the costs for a certain number of lateral flow tests per employee per annum.
  • Having a policy in place for employees to know situations as to when to work from home (i.e. if they have a cold, Covid-like symptoms, etc.) or when they will be entitled to sick pay if unable to work from home.
  • How to support clinically extremely vulnerable employees when integrating them back into the workforce.

If you require further advice on this topic or would like to discuss next steps, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our employment law team.

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Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Melanie Pimenta

Senior Solicitor

View profile

+44 118 960 4653

About this article

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