COVID 19 in the workplace – update

Furlough has ended, offices are reopening their doors, and schools are fully back to normal, how as an employer do you manage Covid?

Individuals who are double jabbed and who had their last vaccination at least 14 days prior to contact with a positive case will no longer need to isolate. Those under the age of 18 years and six months, those participating in an approved COVID-19 clinical trial and those who can evidence that they are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons will also be exempt from self-isolation.

Which employees should be self-isolating?

It remains an offence for an employer to knowingly allow an employee to attend the workplace when they are required to be self-isolating but also remains an offence if an employee breaks the self-isolating rules.

If someone is contacted by NHS Test and Trace and told they are a contact of a positive case, they will be asked for their age and their vaccination details. Test and Trace will then inform the person if they are required to self-isolate.  

Employees must notify their employer of the requirement to self-isolate. However, the employee does not need to notify their employer if they are a close contact but exempt from the duty to self-isolate.

What should you do if a household member of an employee tests positive?

The guidance makes it clear that the same rules apply whether the close contact is external to the household or within it. This is despite the fact that people who live in the same household as someone with COVID-19 are at a higher risk of being infected. We expect to see many employers asking employees whose household members who have COVID-19 symptoms to avoid attending the workplace.

What checks can you do?

Some employers have been collecting vaccination information about employees for the purpose of planning a safe return to the workplace, the HRX do have templates for such data collection. This will allow you as an Employer to have that data readily available if cases do arise in the workplace.

If an employer is simply relying on its employees notifying them only when they are legally required to self-isolate, the employer should not need to check vaccination status in these circumstances.

In some circumstances, where there has been an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace, an employer may wish to check which employees can legally continue to work, by checking vaccination statuses before NHS Test and Trace has become involved.

What action can you take for employees who are unvaccinated who keep self-isolating?

In the coming months, there are likely to be issues arising in the workplace where employees who have not had the vaccine are required to self-isolate, possibly on a frequent basis.

There may be many reasons why employees are not vaccinated, if employees are unable to work from home, employers will have to deal with the issue of pay. Revert to your contractual agreements in these circumstances.

What do you do if one of our workers tests positive?

In the event of an outbreak in the workplace, employers should follow their Covid policy processes and revert to the current government guidelines.

Mandatory vaccinations

From 11 November 2021 COVID-19 vaccination will be made compulsory for those working in care homes in England. The legislation applies to all Care Quality Commission-regulated service providers of nursing and personal care, in care homes.

As of April 2022, it will be compulsory for all NHS Employees to be double vaccinated which was announced on 09 November 2021.

Employees who can prove they are clinically exempt will not be required to have the vaccination and are able to continue their duties as normal.

Care workers had 16 weeks from the introduction of the legislation (on 22 July) to decide to take up the offer of vaccination. This means that 16 September was the last date for care workers to get their first vaccine, so they are fully vaccinated by the 11 November.

The government have given all NHS Employees 5 months to become double vaccinated before it will be compulsory.

Failure to follow an employer’s reasonable instructions can lead to disciplinary processes and dismissal if an employee who works in this area refuses the vaccination. The current legal approach would normally involve consideration of alternative roles before potential procedures towards dismissal although alternative roles will not be available for many employers.

Whether an instruction to have a COVID-19 vaccine is reasonable has not been tested in the tribunals and courts.