Kerry Hudson: How can employers help staff feel safe now Covid restrictions have been lifted?

Kerry Hudson Head of Employment Brindly Twist Tafft & James

Organisations no longer have to explicitly consider Covid-19 (Coronavirus) in their statutory and health risk assessments, but it would be wise to bear it in mind. While continuing to comply with existing legal obligations relating to health and safety, such as providing sufficient ventilation, some employers may wish to still cover Covid-19 in their risk assessments.

Some sectors were slower to remove legal obligations around Covid-19, particularly the health and social care industry. For example, while most restrictions across England were dropped at the end of February, the requirement for vaccinations in care homes was revoked on 15 March 2022, and in the health and social care sectors this was revoked on 1 April 2022.

Patient-facing NHS staff are still advised to participate in the NHS asymptomatic testing programme. This is for all patient-facing staff, including permanent and temporary staff, volunteers, students and contractors.

A testing regime has also been advised to continue for those working in England providing patient-facing care to NHS patients in prisons, immigration reception centres, and other places of detention.

Government guidelines still state that providers of primary and community health services should ensure that measures are in place so that all settings are Covid-secure, using social distancing, enforce optimal hand hygiene, frequent surface decontamination, ventilation and other measures where appropriate.

From 21 February, staff and pupils in mainstream secondary schools were no longer expected to continue taking part in regular asymptomatic testing, instead following asymptomatic testing advice for the general population.

In brief, safety measures have become more optional. Nevertheless, employers may choose to provide sanitiser, employ social distancing, and send someone who has symptoms home until they test negative, or until five days have passed.

Continuing some of these safety measures, despite the lack of legal obligation, may be a sensible way of maintaining business continuity, by preventing general infection, and therefore sick leave, among employees.

Kerry Hudson is head of employment at Coventry-based solicitors Brindley Twist Tafft and James (BTTJ)

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