On 19th July 2021, most of the Coronavirus legal restrictions will end in England.
Facemasks will no longer be compulsory, the two-metre social distancing rule will be removed, people will be encouraged to return to the office and the rule of six people or two households mixing indoors will not be required.
To help SMEs prepare for what is being referred to by some as ‘Freedom Day’, our Employment Lawyers have examined the changes and listed three questions business owners may wish to consider before Monday.
One - Does everyone in your organisation understand the new changes?
Unfortunately, the ending of Coronavirus restrictions in England is not completely straightforward. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has made the wearing of face coverings a condition of carriage for all Transport for London (TfL) services, which include Tube, bus, tram, DLR, Overground, and TfL Rail. TfL's 400 enforcement officers will deny those without a face covering from using London transport.
At the time of writing, London was the only major UK city to make the wearing of a face covering a condition of carriage, however, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said he will not “rule out” making a similar rule.
Another point to be aware of is that employees travelling to the devolved nations (Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) will need to abide by different rules as many restrictions, including the requirement for face coverings and social distancing, remain in place.
Two - Can you protect highly vulnerable employees and provide for those suffering from long-Covid?
A recent TUC report shows that over half (52%) of employees suffering from long-Covid have faced discrimination in their workplace. More than a fifth of respondents (22 per cent) said they were concerned their managers would judge them poorly because long Covid had negatively affected their performance, with 18 per cent concerned they would miss out on future promotions. There have been calls for long-Covid to be recognised as a disability under the Equality Act 2010. If this were to happen, it could require further adjustment to employee relations.
If you have staff members who are in the clinically vulnerable category in your premises, the current guidance highlights that “employers still have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and others from risks to their health and safety.” The best way to provide protection is to allow any clinically vulnerable employees and those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to continue to work from home.
Three - Are you clear on the status of fully vaccinated people?
If your business involves organising large events such as weddings, concerts, and festivals, operates in the hospitality sector, and/or your employees are required to travel internationally, understanding the rules as they apply to those who are and are not fully vaccinated becomes important.
The new rules are as follows:
- You will no longer need to collect customer contact details, and customers entering a restaurant, gym, or any other venue will not need to scan a QR Code.
- Businesses who organise and run large-scale events such as festivals are "encouraged" to use so-called COVID passports to record proof of a person’s negative test result or full vaccination before entry. This may become mandatory if cases rise rapidly, as they have in the Netherlands following full re-opening.
- People who are not fully vaccinated will still be required to isolate after testing positive or coming into contact with an infected person. Employers have been urged by the government to support employees who need to isolate. As at the time of writing, self-isolation for the double-jabbed and under 18s will be dropped after 16 August in cases where a person comes into contact with an infected person but even if you are fully vaccinated, you will still need to self-isolate for 10 days if you test positive for Coronavirus.
- From 19 July, UK residents who are double-jabbed will no longer be required to self-isolate when returning from green or amber list countries. However, travelling employees must take a test three days before returning and take a PCR test on day 2 - but not on day 8 - as previously. Employees not yet fully vaccinated or travelling to red-list countries must still isolate - the latter group in a government-sanctioned hotel.
- On 19 July 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that so-called ‘Covid passports’ will be brought in from September. Anyone who wishes to enter a nightclub will need to prove they are fully vaccinated. Furthermore, Mr Johnson did not rule out that from September, proof of vaccination will be required to enter other crowded venues such as pubs.
Although almost all Covid 19 Pandemic-related restrictions will end on 19 July 2021, businesses working in certain sectors or who have clinically vulnerable and/or unvaccinated employees will still need to abide by certain rules and guidelines. If you are unsure of your duties and responsibilities as a business owner or have questions about the reopening guide, please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Solicitors for business help and advice.
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