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Government Announces Step Four of the Roadmap out of Lockdown

14th July 2021

Government Announces Step Four of the Roadmap out of Lockdown

This week the government have confirmed that their plans for the fourth stage of the roadmap out of lockdown in England will be in place from 19 July.

In this special update we have set out some of the key issues that employers will need to consider at this stage.  As always, the employment team at Higgs would be more than happy to help you understand the implications of the new rules for your business and help as your business transitions to whatever your new normal will be.

The Key Changes

From an employer’s perspective the key changes in step four are the removal of the following legal requirements:

  • to work from home where possible;
  • to socially distance in the workplace; and
  • to wear masks.

Although these legal requirements will be removed, employers should be aware that the government guidance on this stage of the roadmap makes clear that employers will still be legally responsible for managing the risks associated with the virus just as they are responsible for managing other risks to the health, safety, and wellbeing of their employees and that this is likely to involve putting in place protective measures to prevent the spread of the disease or maintaining those measures they have already had in place.

What Measures are Likely to be Required?

The government’s “working safely during coronavirus” guidance has been updated to reflect the latest stage of the roadmap.  This provides more detailed guidance for employers about appropriate measures they should consider and, as it has done in the past, provides guidance for employers in specific sectors / with specific working environments. This guidance should be used to update your risk assessments and can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-covid-19.

As a starting point, employers should be aware that the publication on the latest stage of the roadmap strongly suggests that employers should be putting some measures to minimise unnecessary contact in the workplace; making use of outdoor spaces where available; and considering how they might get more fresh air to indoor spaces. 

The roadmap and guidance also suggest employers should also be considering the increased risks posed to clinically vulnerable individuals and those who are not fully vaccinated when preparing risk assessments.  For employers with younger workforces this may be a considerable number of people as it is anticipated that it will be mid-September before  all adults will have had the opportunity to receive a second dose of the vaccine.  Employers should also be aware that given these groups are currently at more risk from the virus, there is a danger that decisions they make about how they open up over the summer may amount to indirect discrimination and a considered, cautious approach is, therefore, advised.

The roadmap and guidance also suggest that carbon dioxide monitors could be used to help identify where a space is poorly ventilated and to help businesses monitor improvements to ventilation: this will not measure anything relating to the virus directly but as CO2 levels are likely to rise in an enclosed space where there are people and little airflow such monitors could be used as a proxy or ‘rule of thumb’ for the recycling of air in an enclosed space. Having the right sort of monitor and measuring in the right way at the right time etc. is going to be crucial to actually making this work safely – and employers are advised to get specific advice on how such monitoring might work for them if it is something they want to consider.

Whilst not strictly relevant to the employment setting the roadmap also suggests that, from an individual perspective, the following behaviours may be beneficial:

  • Meeting in well-ventilated areas where possible, such as outdoors or indoors with windows open.
  • Wearing a face covering where you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet in enclosed and crowded spaces.
  • Washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day.
  • Covering your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze.
  • Staying at home if unwell, to reduce the risk of passing on other illnesses onto friends, family, colleagues, and others in your community.
  • Considering individual risks, such as clinical vulnerabilities and vaccination status

As such, these behaviours may form a part of the government’s public health messaging over the summer. 

Self-Isolation

For the time being, individuals who have tested positive or are contacted by test and trace will still be required to self-isolate regardless of vaccination status.  Employers should not require those who need to self-isolate to attend work and should consider the option of allowing those self-isolating to work from home. 

Support payments will still be available for those who cannot work from home if they are required to self-isolate until at least the end of September.  At present it is uncertain whether those who are required to isolate but are otherwise well, qualify for statutory sick pay.

As you may have seen in the press, it is estimated that a huge number of individuals will be required to self-isolate this summer as cases continue to rise.  Although there are ongoing discussions about reducing the sensitivity of the NHS app and those who are double vaccinated will not be required to self-isolate provided they have not received a positive test or have symptoms from 16 August, employers would be wise to incorporate this into their planning for the next few months.

 

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