Read what the latest Public Health guidance means for your business

The guidance appears therefore to be quite confusing. On the one hand COVID safety measures are no longer required for the majority of businesses, but on the other the guidance to self-isolate has been significantly widened. This leaves employers in a real bind as to what to do and leaves open the ongoing significant interruption to business that periods of self-isolation create. Employers will need to give thought to what, if any, other protective measures (such as screens and sanitiser) they wish to retain should they wish to insist on those suffering from a respiratory illness coming to work.

What to do if a member of staff has symptoms of a respiratory infection, including COVID-19

If a member of staff is unwell with symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, they should follow the guidance for people with symptoms of a respiratory infection such as COVID-19.

Employers, in accordance with their legal obligations, may wish to consider how best to support and enable their workforce to follow this guidance as far as possible.

Management of members of staff who are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19

Some workers are at a greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19, for example people who have a weakened immune system.

There is specific guidance for people whose immune system means that they are at higher risk, because they have a reduced ability to fight infections, such as COVID-19. Employers may wish to consider the needs of employees at greater risk from COVID-19, including those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

It is unclear whether there will be any specific updates to the Living with COVID plan but pulling together the various strands we now know:

 

The guidance is to be updated monthly and we will have to see what impact the loss of free mass testing and the updated self-isolation requirements will have.

The Home Office updated its Coronavirus (COVID-19): right to work check guidance on 22 February 2022 – extending the end date for the temporary adjusted right to work checks from 5 April 2022 to 30 September 2022 (inclusive).

What are the adjusted measures?

The adjusted measures that were originally published on 30 March 2020 and will now be in place until 30 September 2022 (inclusive) include:

Job applicants and existing workers can send scanned documents or a photo of documents for checks using email or a mobile app, rather than sending originals

Checks can be carried out over video calls with the employee holding up the original document to the camera, which is then checked against the digital copy. The digital copy should then be annotated ‘adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19’

Employers should use the Home Office employer checking service if a prospective or existing employee cannot provide any of the accepted right to work documents

Employers should be aware it remains an offence to knowingly employ someone who does not have the right to work in the UK.

Discrimination

You should not discriminate when conducting right to work checks. You should conduct  right to work checks on all potential employees, including British citizens.

Do not simply check the status of those who appear to be migrants, otherwise you could be breaking the law

Why have the adjusted measures been extended?

At the end of 2021, the government announced its intention to enable employers and landlords to use certified Identification Document Validation Technology (IDVT) service providers to carry out checks on their behalf, including for British and Irish citizens, from 6 April 2022.

Positive feedback has been received since this announcement and it is hoped deferring the adjusted measures end date will ensure employers have sufficient time to develop commercial relationships with identity providers.

What will be the benefit of the IDVT scheme?

Employers are encouraged to embrace the future digitalisation of right to work checks and plan the necessary changes to their current pre-employment on-boarding processes to ensure a smooth transition from existing practices.

IDVT service providers will need to be certified against robust rules and it is expected further information on the IDVT scheme and the list of certified providers will be published very soon.

What steps should I take now?

The Home Office believes the introduction of the IDVT scheme will mean employers can guarantee prospective employee’s identities, using consistent and more secure methods, which will, in turn, reduce the risk of them employing illegal workers and allowing recruitment to continue in a safer way.

The Prime Minister has announced that England will move to ‘Plan B’ in response to the rapid rise of cases of the Omicron variant.

Do office workers now need to work from home?

Anyone who can work from home is being advised to do so from Monday 13 December. The Cabinet Office guidance says that anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go into work .  This is guidance rather than law so nobody will be committing an offence by continuing to work from the office if they could have worked from home.

Note that the new guidance applies to England only – the position is different in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. In Wales, for example, working from home is already encouraged.

Does this mean the office Christmas party must be cancelled?

In answer to a question at the press conference, the Prime Minister said that Christmas parties can go ahead. This is legally correct – there are no restrictions on social events.

Ireland recently brought in restrictions in a similar way – with working from home being introduced without restrictions on social events (although social events in Ireland are now also restricted).

Are there new rules for offices if they stay open?

The Working Safely guidance on how employers can reduce the risks in their workplace has not yet been updated and there is currently no new guidance from the Health and Safety Executive.

Which settings must use NHS Covid passes?

From Wednesday 15 December, subject to parliamentary approval, the NHS App will become mandatory for entry into nightclubs and large venues – including unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees. In a concession to the affected industries, alternative proof (such as an email or text) of a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted. The requirements are likely to be apply only to customers, rather than staff.

What are the planned new self-isolation requirements?

Under the current law, a close contact of someone with a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant is required to self-isolate regardless of vaccination status.

The injury rate in the food and drink manufacturing sector is double the manufacturing sector average and the HSE estimate that 25% of these injuries are musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). However, despite these figures, HSE’s enforcement relating to MSDs remains low.

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In November 2014, proposed sentencing guidelines were published that will assist sentencers dealing with corporate manslaughter, health and safety, food safety and hygiene offences.

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It has been declared in front of around 125 construction leaders by Terry Morgan, Crossrail’s chairman; Paul Sheffield, Kier’s former chief executive; and Dennis Curran, Barhale’s executive chairman, that the amount of injury and damage occurring from working around underground services is unacceptable, unnecessary and cannot go on. They have launched a free-to-download “safe digging is not enough” toolkit to demonstrate their commitment to raising safety standards.

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The HSE updated the Health & Safety Law Poster in 2009, but gave employers five years to replace the old ones – you have until 5 April 2014 to replace 1999 posters with the 2009 one, or issue the relevant leaflet to employees.

Further information can be found here http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/lawposter.htm