Government lifts all Covid-19 restrictions – what does this mean for your business? - MLP Law

Government lifts all Covid-19 restrictions – what does this mean for your business?

On 21st February 2022, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that, from Thursday 24th February 2022, mandatory Covid self-isolation will end, as will the Covid support payment scheme. Furthermore, from 1st April 2022, free Covid testing will also end. This development effectively shifts the responsibility for public health and safety away from the Government and on […]

Government lifts all Covid-19 restrictions – what does this mean for your business?

On 21st February 2022, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that, from Thursday 24th February 2022, mandatory Covid self-isolation will end, as will the Covid support payment scheme. Furthermore, from 1st April 2022, free Covid testing will also end.

This development effectively shifts the responsibility for public health and safety away from the Government and on to individuals, and in particular employers.

So what does this mean for your business?

As the responsibility of managing Covid cases effectively passes over to employers, each business will need to assess its own approach to how it will handle Covid cases amongst its workforce. This will include deciding whether to continue to require employees to remain away from the workplace if they test positive for, or show symptoms of, Covid.

For many businesses, whose employees can perform their duties from home, this may be fairly straightforward, as employees could simply be asked to work from home if they test positive or have symptoms but are otherwise fit enough to work.

However, employers of workers who cannot perform their duties from home (for example those working in retail or hospitality) will have a difficult decision to make. That’s because, although an employer can require employees who have tested positive or who have symptoms to stay away from work, they would still be obliged to pay the employees in full if they have presented themselves as fit for work (for example if they are asymptomatic or only have very mild symptoms) but are unable to work from home.

If they are too unwell to work, usual sickness absence, and sick pay, principles would apply.

Conversely, employees who are not ill but decide to self-isolate despite not being required to do so (whether by guidelines or by their employer), may not be entitled to pay unless they have agreed a period of leave with their employer.

What about employees who are afraid of catching Covid in the workplace?

Given the trend in recent Employment Tribunal decisions, it seems highly unlikely that a generalised fear of catching Covid will justify an employee in refusing to attend work. This is especially so now that all restrictions have been lifted and the country enters a phase of “living with Covid”. 

However, every employer has a duty of care to their employees and each business will need to assess the risks which apply in their specific circumstances. This may mean taking a slightly different approach to protect vulnerable employees or continuing to put in place measures to ensure a “Covid secure” working environment, even where doing so is at the employer’s expense (such as by [paying employees to stay away from the workplace).

How MLP Law can help?

With the most recent announcement the rules regarding Covid seem to always start with ‘it depends’. If you are unsure about your specific situation as an employee or an employer, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us on 0161 926 9969 or employment@mlplaw.co.uk and one of our Legal 500 recommended Employment Law solicitors will be able to answer your questions. For further updates on the situation and other interesting topics follow us on Twitter @HRHeroUK.

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