On 12 July 2021, the Government confirmed that from 19 July, we would move into step 4 of the roadmap, and Covid-19 restrictions would be lifted. Below is a summary of what this will mean for employers.
The instruction to work from home comes to an end.
One of the most significant parts of the announcement, especially where employers are concerned, is the lifting of the general instruction that all employees should work from home where possible. Employers can now start planning a return to the workplace for staff working from home if they wish to do so.
Social distancing measures and face-covering rules to end.
The current rules requiring social distancing will be lifted in the majority of settings. The rules will remain in place in ports of entry to help manage the risk of variants being spread.
The legal requirement to wear a facemask will be lifted in all settings. However, the Government is likely to advise wearing facemasks when in contact with new people in enclosed spaces and crowded spaces.
The Government will also lift the regulations currently in place requiring Covid secure environments for businesses. Updated guidance will be published, and employers will be encouraged to take sensible precautions to reduce risk in their workplaces. Employers will be advised to consider this guidance when conducting the risk assessments they are obliged to carry out under general health and safety laws.
This will mark a shift away from Government imposed rules and restrictions towards individual and business choice and responsibility. Employers could choose to maintain their current workplace safety measures, including any social distancing and wearing face coverings, or adjust their approach if their risk assessment concludes that this is appropriate.
Travel quarantine rules relaxed for the fully vaccinated.
The Government also announced that they would remove the requirement to quarantine when returning from an Amber List country on 19 July for fully vaccinated individuals. This change would see fully vaccinated people returning from amber list countries following those returning from green list countries. (i.e. negative result in test taken within the three days before travel to England and post-travel test taken on or before day two following return to England, with self-isolation if that test result is positive).
This relaxation of the rules is expected to allow more people to travel during the summer season and reduce operational difficulties for employers, as fewer workers will have to quarantine when returning from holidays. Employers will need to remember that not all workers will be vaccinated. It remains an offence for an employer to require an individual who is subject to quarantine to attend any place for work other than the place where they are quarantining.
In addition, travellers from red list countries will be required to quarantine in a manager quarantine hotel for ten days. Countries can move between the amber and red lists, sometimes at short notice.
Self-isolation for fully vaccinated close contacts to end.
The NHS Test and trace programme will remain in place, and the Government will continue to make tests available to those with symptoms and the regular use of rapid tests for those without will be encouraged. Employers who registered for the Government’s workplace testing scheme can continue to order Government-funded LFD tests until 19 July.
Those contacted by test and trace as a close contact or those testing positive will still need to isolate as a legal requirement. That said, the Government has confirmed that it intends to remove the requirement to self-isolate as a close contact for individuals who are fully vaccinated or under 18. If and when this change is introduced, it is expected to reduce the staffing difficulties that many employers may face due to higher Covid-19 case numbers and the consequent increase in employees having to self-isolate. This change is due to come into effect later in the summer.
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