UK: Covid-19 Update
In addition to a return to work, in England:
- The compulsory use of the NHS COVID pass ended on 27 January but venues may use them if they wish
- The mandatory wearing of face coverings ended on 27 January but the government suggests people continue to wear a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where they may come into contact with other people they do not normally meet
- Self-isolation rules for people who test positive with Covid-19 remain in place for now but Ministers expect the self-isolation rules could be removed by the end of February, although guidance may remain
- From 11 February eligible fully vaccinated travellers entering the UK no longer need to take a post-arrival lateral flow test; for those who do not qualify as fully vaccinated, they will only need proof of a negative Covid test taken 2 days before travel but must also take a post-arrival PCR test. Passenger locator forms must still be completed by all arriving passengers; fully vaccinated continues to mean 2 doses of an approved vaccination, or 1 dose of the Janssen vaccine; under 18s continue to be treated as eligible fully vaccinated passengers.
- From 10 January 2022 a precautionary testing scheme has been launched for critical workers in national infrastructure, national security, transport and food distribution and processing, where lateral flow tests are sent directly to their workplaces to enable testing on every working day.
In Scotland, employers have been asked to phase workers back into spending some time in the workplace from 31 January.
Separately, the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate scheme for SMEs has been reintroduced. whereby employers with fewer than 250 employees can claim up to two weeks’ Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) per employee for Covid-related sickness absences. The scheme applies to any days of incapacity after 21 December 2021. The Scheme will end on 24 March 2022, which is the last date for claims to be submitted to HMRC.
Finally, the UK government has published a consultation on revoking vaccination as a condition of deployment in health and social care in England. Since 11 November 2022 workers in Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated care homes in England must be vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they are exempt. Regulations also extend mandatory vaccination to workers in the health and social care sector who have face-to-face contact with service users, from 1 April 2022.
The government’s intention is to revoke mandatory vaccination. However, it considers that workers in the health and social care sectors have a professional duty to be vaccinated against COVID-19, so is taking a number of steps to encourage workers to get vaccinated. The consultation closed on 16 February 2022.
Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel
Employers should follow the Working safely during coronavirus guidance and Coronavirus: safer businesses and workplaces for England and Scotland respectively, and continue to follow statutory health and safety requirements, conduct a risk assessment and take reasonable steps to manage risks in their workplace. For further details, see our update: COVID-19: Working from home guidance lifted in England with immediate effect.