July 19th and the end of covid restrictions is quickly approaching. Since March 2020 our team of HR and H&S professionals have been interpreting and decoding the Governments guidance and laws relating to Covid-19. We’ve been providing the advice and support to not only ensure compliance but more importantly to enable clients to navigate the red tape and restrictions and focus on running their businesses through very challenging times.
Now, these restrictions are ending, in the main! Our team have condensed the many questions we have been asked over the last few weeks in advance of Step 4 and the easing of lockdown. Here is the advice to consider as you approach July 19th and start to move into this post covid restriction environment.
Communication!!! Communication!!! Communication!!!
- Communicate with employees and gauge their feelings on the removal of face masks, and discuss their concerns along with your concerns, complete a risk assessment to understand the risk of covid within the workplace by removing the current safety measures.
- A business can continue to make face coverings compulsory but must remember that some employees will remain exempt.
- A policy could be that face coverings are no longer required, but employees may continue to wear them should they chose to do so.
- Employers may get some resistance from whatever they decide to do, but the most important thing will be to communicate with employees and allow them their opportunity to tell you their feelings, then make a decision on what is best for your business and communicate to them the reasons you have made that decision. So that they understand why you have made the decision you have made.
- Plan a gradual return to the office and consider bubbles and staggered shifts still. Loss of staff through a requirement to self isolate is still a real and increasing danger with the Delta variant, keep those Covid secure disciplines in place for the foreseeable future.
- Your vaccination policy and testing policy are still valid and may be more beneficial to support staff moral and behaviour management if your business is returning to full staff capacity.
Health and Safety
Employers still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business. Carrying out a risk assessment including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks. Guidance will set out any special mitigations employers should consider when updated but will include:
- cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly;
- identifying poorly-ventilated areas in the venue and taking steps to improve air flow;
- ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue;
- communicating to staff and customers the measures you have put in place.
- Promoting good personal hygiene with handwashing
- Keep detailed records of employee work patterns and times in order to manage any covid out breaks and minimise staff losses due to self isolation or positive cases.
In general, the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 is higher:
- in crowded spaces, where there are more people who might be infectious
- in enclosed indoor spaces where there is limited fresh air
Take these considerations into account when revising and updating your risk assessments and any revised working practices.
NHS COVID Pass
Businesses in High-risk settings are encouraged to use the NHS COVID pass (aka vaccine passport in disguise) this is aimed at large crowded settings where close contact with others in outside households/bubbles. This is available through the NHS app or NHS.UK or a letter through ringing NHS direct. The way it is worded that some places shouldn’t use the COVID pass as a condition of entry which is any “essential services/retailers” which have been able to stay out during the pandemic.
So basically any business that opened during the pandemic can’t use it as a condition of entry or would have a extremely difficult job in justifying it.
Businesses are also encouraged to continue displaying QR codes for customers wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, or to continue collecting customer contact details to support NHS Test and Trace, however this will no longer be a legal requirement.
- No longer required to provide table service.
- No limits on weddings and funerals
- No limits on concerts, theatres or sports events
- No limits on places of worship
Those who are fully vaccinated or under 18 will be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate as a result of close contact from 16th August. If anyone tests positive they must self-isolate for 10 days regardless of age or vaccination status
Staying home when unwell
Stay home even with mild symptoms and take a PCR test. Self-isolate until results
Results are displayed through the NHS COVID pass. People are still encouraged to test twice a week even without symptoms. Information on obtaining tests can be found here.
Returning to places of work
This is expected to be gradual over the summer period. We should continue to recommend bubbles and continuity plans.
No longer mandatory but expected in crowded areas such as public transport. (The instructions here have been really vague deliberately. This is going to be impossible to police)
In the workplace, the employer could impose face coverings as part of their internal controls as a result of completing a RA, primarily to protect customers, however as stated in the HR brief above, this should be done with consultation and positive employee engagement.
Restrictions that limit each resident to five named visitors are removed.
Still in place for all for
- Red list countries
- Amber countries if not fully vaccinated
This is defined by 14 days after the second dose for two-dose vaccines
The Government is likely to reissue the fourteen sector guidance notes used to define the restrictions within business and commerce, should this be the case Park City’s team will be on hand to issue guidance to our client base.
In the short term, remember you are not alone and we are stronger together, call us for any assistance in your response to the easing of lockdown, the return of staff to your business and increasing your business activity levels to respond to the economic bounce back.
Juliet and Tim Price