Living with COVID plan: implications for employers

8th March 2022

The Government has announced its plan for how England will live with Covid in the future.  Here we look at some of the key changes that will impact employers in the coming weeks.

Removal of the legal requirement to self-isolate 

As of 24 February 2022, people who test positive and anyone unvaccinated who has come into close contact with a positive case, will no longer be required by law to self-isolate.  However, anyone who receives a positive test will be ‘advised’ to isolate for five days.

As we see a shift from state mandated restrictions to personal responsibility, we would recommend that employers produce their own set of guidelines on how they intend to manage the impact of Covid-19 moving forwards.   These might include asking employees to work from home (where possible) when they have symptoms, and to only return to the office when they have either tested negative or their symptoms have gone.  This will help employees know what is expected of them and prevent outbreaks in the workplace.

Closure of SSP Rebate Scheme

The Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will close on 17 March 2022.  This means that employers will no longer be able to claim back SSP for their employees’ Covid-19 related absences or self-isolation that occurs after 17 March 2022.

Employers have up to and including 24 March 2022 to submit any final claims and amend claims they have already submitted.  From 25 March 2022, the normal SSP rules will return, which means that SSP will be payable from the fourth day an employee is absent, regardless of the reason for their absence.

End to free testing

From 1 April 2022, the Government will no longer provide free access to lateral flow and PCR tests.  This means that employers who have put in place mandatory or voluntary workplace testing will have to reconsider their policies.

Employers may want to encourage their employees to stock-up on free tests whilst they are still available, although they are limited to one pack every three days.

Employers urged to scale back working from home

The Prime Minister has suggested that businesses should consider lifting work from home policies to restore public confidence after the pandemic.  Depending on the nature of your organisation, we recommend implementing a hybrid working policy which sets out standards expected of employees in respect of the number of days they work from home/the office and any other changes which may have been introduced the pandemic such as changes to start and finish times/core hours.

The next couple of months will be a difficult period for employers as we adapt to “living with covid”.  Employers will have to grapple with the competing demands of protecting their employee’s health and safety, alongside maintaining capacity in their workforce to meet demand.

If you need any advice on these issues or help drafting guidelines/policies, please get in touch.

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