Following Boris Johnson’s announcement of how Covid restrictions will be relaxed if all goes to plan from the 19 July 2021 (to be confirmed on 12 July 2021), what were the key points for businesses to consider in terms of the workplace?
1. Covid Safe Workplaces
With legal restrictions proposed to be lifted ending the 1 metre plus rule for social distancing and the legal obligation to wear a face covering businesses may want to revisit their risk assessments. However, many businesses may want to keep certain restrictions in place depending on the environment and the guidance which will be issued on where individuals may choose to wear face masks. Have you considered asking your staff what measures they would like to see to make them feel safe before you make an informed decision? Going from all to nothing could be a step too far for some, particularly if you have any employees who would be more vulnerable to covid than others.
2. Working from Home
The Government will no longer instruct people to work from home, so employers can start planning a safe return to the workplace. For those who have been working from home for some time this may take some adjustment and you may come across some push back, so you could consider a gradual return. Many companies are now offering hybrid working (working from both the office and home) and have introduced policies to reflect this. Consider asking your employees what they would like to see you offer.
If you aren’t offering hybrid working, you may find you receive more flexible working requests. There are 8 reasons why you can decline a flexible working request (extra costs that will damage the business, the work cannot be reorganised among other staff, people cannot be recruited to do the work, flexible working will affect quality and performance, the business will not be able to meet customer demand, there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times, the business is planning changes to the workforce). Ensure you deal with requests within the statutory timeframe of making a decision within 3 months of the request.
3. Self Isolation
Individuals will need to self-isolate should they receive a positive test or if they are told to be NHS test and trace. However, the Government is looking at a different regime for fully vaccinated contacts of those who test positive, and for children. This is good news for businesses in terms of school ‘bubbles’ as currently if one class member tests positive, the whole bubble has to isolate which then impacts on work for parents due to childcare arrangements. New procedures will be introduced which is likely to mean more testing. These will be announced shortly.
4. Travel and holidays
The Government are working with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully vaccinated arrivals to isolate on return from a country on the amber list (the red list will still be in force). More detail is expected later this week, but this would avoid the need for individuals to build in quarantine to their holiday, which cannot always be approved due to business need. It would also help those occasions where a location was on the green list when they travel but changes to amber whilst they are away, meaning they need to quarantine on their return. Therefore this then impacts on their work arrangements and creates last-minute issues for businesses if they had not considered this prior to the travel.