EZHR: Update on changes to COVID-19 restrictions in England

Tuesday, 22nd February 2022

Yesterday the Government released their document Living with Covid which sets out how restrictions will be lifted over the coming weeks and goes into more detail than the PMs announcement.

The timeline has been confirmed as below.

Immediately, the guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to undertake twice weekly asymptomatic testing will be removed.

From 24 February 2022, the following changes take place:

  • The legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive COVID test is removed, although it is still recommended that they remain at home.
  • Employees will no longer be required to tell their employers when they are required to self-isolate.
  • Close contacts who are not fully vaccinated are not required to self-isolate.
  • Fully vaccinated close contacts are not required to test daily for 7 days.
  • The routine tracing of close contacts following a positive case will be removed.
  • The funding of self-isolation support payments will no longer be available.

From 24 March 2022, the Covid SSP support will stop and will be subject to the normal conditions of SSP.

From 1 April 2022,

  • Free lateral flow tests in England will be removed.
  • The guidance on domestic voluntary COVID-status certification will be removed and will no longer recommend that certain venues use the NHS COVID Pass.
  • The Government will remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments. However, employers that specifically work with COVID-19, such as laboratories, must continue to undertake a risk assessment that considers COVID-19.
  • The existing set of “Working Safely” Guidance will be replaced with new public health guidance.

Following today’s briefing the Government will provide further guidance though this is not anticipated to be available until 1 April 2022.  The guidance is expected to include, specific guidance for those working in provision of services to the vulnerable, details on the steps that people with positive cases should take to minimise contact with other people, and the new public health guidance to replace the “Working Safely” Guidance.

What action should you take?

While expected, this announcement causes a number of challenges for employers to factor these events into a complex working environment.

There is still an obligation for those testing positive to avoid contact with anyone in an at-risk group. Employers can still ask, but not require, employees to share this information.

If you have vulnerable employees, we recommend that you engage with these individuals to address any concerns they may have, see what their current arrangements are and understand what practical steps you can put in place to support them.

Employers can still encourage employees to work from home, if they can, should they have tested positive or display symptoms.

Additionally, we would encourage you to consider the various issues that may arise.  While it is reasonable to expect this guidance will be added to over the coming weeks, this has given you a sense of direction for how the government see the way forward and you must start to think about polices and situations where you may be impacted.

If you need any support or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in contact on info@ezhr.uk or 07507 413119.