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Living with Covid-19

For almost two years now, we have seen many restrictions placed on our everyday life. Overnight employers and employees needed to quickly adapt to new ways of working and many businesses were forced to close under Government rules.

At the start of the pandemic, there was very little knowledge about Covid-19 and how quickly it would spread or how deadly it could be. Therefore, strict restrictions were applied to the whole of the world.

However, the Government have announced this week, that due to the success of the vaccination programme and all the research done by scientists over the last two years, the Government now have a better understanding of the virus and have decided to lift the restrictions that have been enforced on us, over the next couple of months.

Free lateral flow testing will be withdrawn from 1st April 2022, tests will still be available at a cost from local chemists. However, free symptomatic testing will remain available to social care staff and some limited symptomatic testing available for a small number of at-risk groups, further guidance on this will be released in the next few weeks detailing which groups will be eligible.

We have already seen many legal restrictions lifted for businesses, however, more easing is planned in the next few weeks – these include:

  • From 24th February employees will no longer legally have to inform their employer if they need to self-isolate. However, the advice is to follow Government Guidance which will be to still stay at home if you are unwell and to take a test
  • From 1st April the Government will be replacing the current ‘Working Safely Guidance’ with Public Health guidance – however, the guidance still states that employers need to continue to consider and protect those employees who are at high risk of having a serious illness from Covid-19 and to manage any risk in their workplaces
  • Employers should ensure that areas of the workplace that are poorly ventilated have airflow improved – research done shows good ventilation can reduce transmission of viruses by up to 70%

Employers are also guided that they should still be encouraging employees who have not yet been vaccinated to take up the vaccine to protect themselves and their colleagues.

The Government will be reviewing the situation regularly and have said they will take action, to place restrictions upon England again, at any time if they need to, in order to protect the NHS, however hopefully as people still continue to get vaccinated and adhere to the recommended safe behaviours then they hope this will not be needed.

Safe Behaviours Recommended include:

  • Get fully vaccinated
  • Allow fresh air into rooms where people are gathering to help disperse Covid-19 particles
  • Meet outside where possible
  • Wear face masks when in crowded spaces or when meeting people that you do not usually meet
  • Stay at home if you are feeling unwell
  • Test a test if you feel unwell to see if it is Covid-19
  • Wash hand regularly, ‘Catch it, bin it, Kill it’

Full breakdown of Restrictions being eased including timelines

From 24th February people will no longer:

  • Be required to self-isolate following a positive Covid test – however, they will be advised to stay at home and after 5 days take a lateral flow test for two consecutive days. Anyone testing positive still will be required to avoid contact with anyone in the at-risk categories
  • Have to test for 7 days if they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.
  • Have to self-isolate if not vaccinated and have come in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
  • Provide self-isolation support, however anyone self-isolating before 24th February will still be entitled for 42 days

Also, from 24th February

  • Contact tracing will end
  • The Government removed the guidance for staff and students in education settings to take LFT twice weekly
  • Employees will no longer legally have to tell their employers when required to self-isolate

From 24th March 2022

  • The Covid support with Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance will end.

From 1st April 2022

  • The Government will announce guidance that sets out the ongoing steps anyone with Covid-19 should take to minimise contact with others
  • The Government will no longer provide free LFT for the public in England
  • Tests will still be available to anyone who wishes to buy them privately through local chemists
  • Some free testing will still be applicable to social care employees and certain at-risk people, more details will follow closer to the time
  • The current requirement for some venues to require the Covid NHS pass will end
  • The H&S requirement for employers to have Covid-19 in their risk assessment will be removed
  • The existing ‘Working Safely Guidance’ will be replaced with new public health guidance

More guidance will be published in April for employers, on how to deal with employees who are at high risk of serious illness from Covid-19, even if they are vaccinated

For additional HR assistance with living with COVID-19, contact our consultants.

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