Considerations for employers following lifting of Covid-19 restrictions
8 July 2021
With the Prime Minister announcing this week that a large swathe of the Covid-19 restrictions we have become accustomed to over the past year are likely to be done away with overnight from 19 July (including the direction that employees should 'work from home where possible'), employers face a raft of considerations relating to how best to manage their employees' return to the workplace. Not least will be the concern over how to fulfil their obligation to provide a safe workplace in the face of rising Covid-19 cases, how to handle employees who are worried about a return, or what to do if an employee tests positive for Covid-19.
Employers should be considering:
- the application of Covid-19 secure guidelines in relation to their specific workplace settings, which comply with their workplace health and safety obligations. Although the wearing of face masks and social distancing are expected to no longer be legal requirements from 19 July, employers should consider the most appropriate conditions for their employees to return to, taking into account their safety, health and wellbeing, and any updated Government guidance.
- action plans for responding to suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the workplace, in respect of which the new rules regarding self-isolation will be relevant.
- as part of any such actions plans, their approach to the NHS Covid app and issues of potential employer liability that arise out of an employee being instructed to self-isolate.
- the introduction of a new way of working which might include more flexibility as to place of work and working hours. Such changes can be usefully consolidated in a hybrid/remote working policy.
- whether to introduce new or additional employee monitoring practices. Click here to read more about the legal implications of introducing such practices.
- their stance on their employees' uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine: whilst it is inadvisable to attempt to mandate vaccination in most workplaces, employers may encourage employees to get vaccinated. Read this article for more on what employers should include in their vaccination policy and further information here about collecting information about vaccination status.
- in light of the above and/or other proposed changes to employers' working practices going forward, employers should be aware of the appropriate means of introducing changes to their workplaces, especially where these consist of change at a contractual level. See this article for more on this.
For any queries or assistance regarding these topics and any other employment matters, please contact our Employment team.