Working with Covid-19 – what does the scrapping of self-isolation rules mean for employers?

News  |   8 March 2022

Written by
Elliott Flockhart, Trainee Solicitor

On 21 February 2022, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, confirmed that individuals who test positive for Covid-19 will no longer be legally required to self-isolate from 24 February 2022. Instead, individuals are advised to remain at home for a period of five days.

It was also confirmed that the £500 self-isolation support payments for individuals earning low incomes will cease from 24 February 2022. Moreover, the Covid-19 provisions within the Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) Regulations will be removed from 24 March. SSP will, once again, only be payable to individuals who are not well enough to work, and will be payable from Day 4, instead of Day 1. Furthermore, from 1 April 2022, free Covid-19 lateral flow and PCR testing will end for the general public, although PCR tests will remain available for social care workers and specific vulnerable groups. However, the likelihood of individuals testing prior to attending the workplace will also reduce significantly once the free lateral flow and PCR tests end on 1 April 2022. The scrapping of the self-isolation requirement also means that workers are no longer legally obliged to inform their employer when they are required to self-isolate. In addition, the Working Safely guidance will be replaced with the new consolidated public health guidance on 1 April 2022. Adhering to this guidance will reduce the risk of a successful claim with regards to s 100 (1)(d) and (e) of the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Employers will need to balance the needs of living with Covid-19 with ensuring the safety of staff, particularly employees at greater risk from Covid-19. Employers should also consider that, whilst there is no longer a legal obligation for workers to self-isolate, employers can establish their own, more restricting, workplace attendance rules. These rules can be incorporated into employers’ contracts and policies and may specify that individuals who test positive for Covid-19, or those displaying symptoms, should work from home for a set number of days. Employers may also decide to implement rules concerning the wearing of face masks, continue to encourage the take up of the Covid-19 vaccination, and purchase home-testing kits for employees who are displaying Covid-19 symptoms.

Employers should be mindful that, whilst there is no longer a legal requirement for individuals to self-isolate, some employees may argue that it is wrong for their employer to allow colleagues to return to work after testing positive for Covid-19. Therefore, employers should monitor the morale of the workforce, as some workers may become fearful of returning to the office.

Advice

If you need assistance or advice on the contents of this article, please contact the Employment Team at Thackray Williams LLP 020 8290 0440.

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