Expert fires warning to employers amid Covid law changes

07 March 2022

An employment law expert has warned businesses to get their policies in order as Covid-19 isolation regulations end in England.

Jayne Holliday, Legal Director at West Midlands law firm Higgs LLP, said it will be “really challenging” for businesses as laws which have been in place for almost two years are scrapped.

All Covid restrictions have ended in England, including the legal requirement to isolate after testing positive for the virus.

Isolation remains advisory for at least five full days followed by consecutive negative tests.

Covid regulations for increased statutory sick pay (SSP) will apply for a further month. From March 24, employees with Covid-19 will no longer be eligible for SSP from day-one of their illness – with SSP only being paid on the fourth consecutive day of illness.

Jayne said the changes will bring big decisions for businesses – particularly manufacturers – and could cause significant anxiety for some employees.

“Employers will need to decide whether they will pay employees to isolate, or whether they will ask people who have tested positive with no symptoms or mild symptoms to come into the workplace,” said Jayne.

“If it’s possible for the infected person to work from home then that’s the obvious solution, but that is not possible in settings such as manufacturing.

“If they are to come to work, how will employers allay the fears of the other employees? Alternative measures could be utilised like asking the person to work in a separate space, to wear a mask or to install temporary separation barriers.

“There are a lot of people who are still very anxious about coronavirus, either for themselves or relatives, so it could prove very challenging and divisive for employers.”

Jayne said employers should be particularly cautious when dealing with clinically vulnerable employees.

She said: “These people are likely to be classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010, which states that employers must make reasonable adjustments to accommodate additional needs.

“Some may say that they want permanent home working or their own office space and argue that is a reasonable adjustment.

“The most important thing is that employers review their health & safety risk assessment and any individual risk assessments for vulnerable members of staff.

“Policies on sick pay and testing should be considered and communicated with employees as soon as possible.”

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