Employers will still have to take precautions to reduce Coronavirus transmission in workplaces, even if England fully unlocks on 19 July, say lawyers.
Until at least 30 September 2021, it is still a legal requirement for people to self-isolate if they test positive or are told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.
Employers will risk a fixed penalty notice of up to £10,000 if they knowingly allow a worker who is self-isolating to attend the workplace.
Lawyers, Kerry Garcia and Sarah Taylor, at Stevens & Bolton LLP, say: “Employers should review internal policies and ensure that staff communications clearly set out what is expected when an employee exhibits symptoms of, or tests positive for, Covid-19.”
The prime minister has advised that people should wear masks by exercising their own judgment, such as on crowded trains. For employees, there is no requirement to wear masks at work but employers may still want to support people to wear masks as a preventive measure.
“With the lifting of restrictions, including there no longer being a requirement for table service in hospitality settings, nor for the wearing of face masks or social distancing generally, many employees may be concerned that their working environments might expose them to a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 from visitors or third parties, especially those in the retail, hospitality and transport sectors,” say Garcia and Taylor.
“With all limits on social contact coming to an end and large scale events resuming without limits on attendance, we are likely to see a rise in corporate hospitality. Employers should be mindful that they owe a duty of care to their staff when participating in work-related social events and should avoid exposing them to unreasonable risk.”
They add that even if employees are fully vaccinated, it’s still possible that they can transmit the virus and even feel unwell enough to not be able to come into work for days, if not weeks. “If an outbreak occurs among colleagues at a workplace, entire teams could be incapacitated for lengthy periods. Employers should address this risk to ensure business continuity during an outbreak.”
Under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-isolation) (England) Regulations 2020), it is an offence for an employer who is aware of an employee’s requirement to self-isolate, to knowingly allow that employee to continue to go to work.
Council officers have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to anyone that they believe has committed an offence under these Coronavirus regulations.
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