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End of legal Covid restrictions – what’s changed?

With the unveiling of its “Living with Covid” plan, the government lifted remaining coronavirus restrictions in England from 24th February. This includes the legal requirement to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid. Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, described the changes as an important next step in a new phase of the pandemic, at the same time urging people to remain sensible, warning that the virus “is not done with us.”

Living with Covid timeline - what’s changing, when?

From 24th February

  • People with Covid are no longer legally required to self-isolate, however the guidance is still to avoid contact with others for at least 5 days
  • Self-isolation payments for those on low incomes stop
  • Routine contact tracing ends, along with the need for people in contact with someone infected with Covid to self-isolate or take daily tests

From 24th March 

  • Enhanced Statutory Sick Pay will be removed - that is the ability to claim SSP from Day 1. Those off sick with Covid will only be able to claim SSP from Day 4 

From 1st April 

  • Free lateral flow and PCR tests will no longer be available to the general public, instead testing will be focused on the elderly and vulnerable
  • Employers won’t have to consider Covid as a separate risk in their Health & Safety planning
  • Covid passports will no longer be a recommendation, except for international travel
There are different timescales for the removal of restrictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Considerations for employers and hirers

The end of these legal restrictions means that employers, including hirers of agency staff, will need to put their own guidance and policies in place for keeping their workforce safe in this next phase of the pandemic. With Day 1 sick pay ending, and no legal obligation to isolate, workers may be more likely to bring Covid into the workplace. This has the potential to be a bone of contention, so needs to be handled sensitively. As an employer, you should consider the following:
  • What will be your Covid sickness policy going forward
  • Whether and how long you will ask workers with Covid to self-isolate
  • Whether and how long you continue to ask workers to take regular lateral flow tests
  • Depending on above, will you fund the cost of testing after 1st April
  • What will be your position on remote and flexible working, given that some may see the changes as an increase in the risk of catching Covid. 
  • What updates to make to your health & safety risk assessment, now that you do not have to have a separate Covid risk assessment
From 1st April 2022, the government will update its guidance on how people with Covid 19 should minimise contact with others, and replace the current “Working Safely” guidance. At Liquid Friday we will continue to monitor this closely and provide updates and support for our contractor community and agency partners.