The end of self-isolation: Key questions for employers
On Wednesday 9 February 2022, Boris Johnson announced that all remaining Covid-19 restrictions, including the legal rule to self-isolate could end later this month. If this proposal goes ahead, it means that anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 will no longer be legally required to self-isolate. This shifts the burden to employers to consider what approach they will take and any associated policies and rules they wish to implement. In this alert we identify key questions for employers to consider.
- Employers still have a duty to protect the health and safety of their workforce. Whilst the government may lift the legal duty of self-isolation, what will your company policy be i.e. will those testing positive be required to remain out of the office to avoid infecting others?
- Do you have a testing policy in place and will you still require employees to test regularly or not at all? Who will pay for the tests?
- How will you treat “clinically vulnerable” employees who, in light of the lifting of self-isolation requirements, feel uncomfortable to return to the workplace or who refuse to do so?
- How will you treat employees who live with or care for others who are “clinically vulnerable” and who do not want to attend the office? Be mindful of the risk of discrimination by association.
- Consider the staff divisions or conflicts that may arise between staff with different viewpoints about attending the office if positive and the risk of infecting others. Have you reviewed your grievance policy recently and have you thought about ways to prepare for and deal with such conflict? Do managers feel able to address these issues (with support from HR)? Do you need to refresh managers (with training) about such processes and how to manage such issues before the spiral?
- Are your working from home, flexible working and hybrid working policies fit for purpose? Companies may see more employees wanting to work from home on a regular basis given the perceived increased risk of being infected once the isolation rules end.
- Will you update and conduct new risk assessments in light of the end of isolation or will you keep the status quo for a further period?
- Have you considered issuing/updating your policies or communicating (e.g. via FAQs) these points? How will you communicate to employees the approach the company is adopting?
With the restrictions potentially being lifted sooner than expected, there are various elements for employers to consider. For any queries, please contact Paul Reeves, Leanne Raven or your usual Stephenson Harwood contact.