Employment Alert – COVID measures and the Future!

02 Dec 2021

COVID measures and the Future!

What’s happening?

In response to the Omicron variant, the government has reintroduced a number of ‘temporary’ measures including the legal requirement to wear face masks in some indoor settings, a reintroduction of the 10 day self-isolation requirements connected to NHS Test and Trace and more onerous obligations for international travellers arriving in the UK.

Whilst compulsory mask wearing has not been reintroduced to all sectors; employers would be wise to consider what measures (if any) it may want to reintroduce to the workplace. Also, employers should remind themselves of some of the legal issues that can arise when workers feel that the risks presented by COVID-19 are or appear to be on the rise.

Why is this important?

The implications where an employee disagrees with their employer’s response to COVID-19 can be significant and potentially devastating for the employer. For example, if an employee refuses to attend their workplace because they believe they are at risk of contracting COVID-19 from the workplace, any resulting disciplinary or dismissal action could lead to claims for automatic unfair dismissal, detriment claims and even discrimination complaints.

What should you do?

  1. Consider whether it is appropriate to reintroduce ‘COVID’ measures again in your workplace to reduce the risk of transmission of infection and, importantly, maintain staff confidence that your workplace is ‘COVID Secure’.
  2. Proactively consider how you will manage your business if more stringent measures are implemented like a requirement to work from home for those who can.
  3. Ensure you stay up to date with the government’s workplace guidance and revisit your COVID-19 risk assessments.
  4. Remind yourself of the wide level of protection offered to employees in these situations. As an example see our previous update here.
  5. Consider the current guidance on face masks. Ensure individuals are notified and face masks are provided and worn where legally required.
  6. Consider what steps you will take if an individual is notified to self-isolate by Test & Trace (for example – can they work from home or not?).
  7. Consult with employees on their travel plans and consider what steps you will need to take if an employee receives a positive test on return to the UK. If you are requiring employees to travel on business, consider the relevant risks, your health and safety obligations and how you will manage their return. See our previous update here.

Author

Kathryn Evans

Partner