Davey Law’s recently appointed specialist Employment Solicitor and Head of Department Faye Reynolds considers some of the key aspects of the Government’s ‘COVID-19 Response: Living with Covid-19 Plan’ and what impact they may have for employers.
To test or not to test?
The legal obligation on employees to tell their employer if they test positive ended on 24 February 2022 and from 1 April 2022 free testing is no longer available (with some exceptions).
Now that the Government has taken the decision that wide scale testing is no longer necessary, employers may be wondering whether to follow suit.
Many employers opted to set up workplace testing in order to help keep workers safe. Testing has provided employees with much needed reassurance at a time when employers were struggling to get employees back into the workplace. Employers may therefore wish to consider the balance between stopping workplace testing altogether due to the cost implications against a gradual phasing out while confidence builds among employees returning to the workplace.
No jab, no job?
The Government initially legislated that those working in health and social care had to be vaccinated against Covid-19. From 15 March 2022 mandatory vaccination ceased to be a condition of deployment across all health and social care sectors, the view being that it was no longer proportionate to require vaccination through legislation. It follows that employers in other sectors cannot insist employees are vaccinated against Covid-19.
As staff are encouraged back to the workplace, employers need to consider what steps to take with regard to those vulnerable to Covid-19. The withdrawal of legal restrictions means vulnerable people may feel overly exposed. Employers should have open and transparent communication with the workforce and in particular with those vulnerable to Covid-19 to gather as much information as possible and understand what additional protection may be appropriate.
The toll the pandemic has taken on people’s mental health cannot be underestimated. Employers should listen to any concerns and try to allay any fears by explaining what steps are being taken to keep staff safe.
Covid – 19 risk assessment
From 1 April 2022 the Government removed the requirement for employers to explicitly consider Covid-19 in their risk assessment, replacing it with a requirement to consider public health guidance.
Nonetheless, it may be helpful to retain a Covid-19 risk assessment to demonstrate that the employer is aware of potential issues and to help build employee confidence, particularly those concerned about returning to the workplace.
Returning to the workplace – what else should employers consider?
• Potential disability discrimination and the need for reasonable adjustments.
• Whether contractual “place of work” clauses need to be revised to reflect changes to working arrangements.
• Potential discrimination when considering requests for continued flexible working arrangements post-pandemic.
For further advice on the above, or any other employment matter please contact Faye Reynolds.