Back to work

In response to falling rates of Covid infection, the government has announced that measures put in place and the 'Plan B' in England will be lifted. The government states that this means:

  • Workers are no longer asked to work from home if they can. People should talk to their employers to agree arrangements to return to the workplace.
  • From 27 January 2022, there is no longer a legal requirement to wear a face covering. People are still advised to wear one in crowded and indoor spaces where they may come into contact with people they do not normally meet.
  • From 27 January 2022, venues and events are no longer required by law to check visitors' NHS COVID Pass. They can still choose to use the NHS COVID Pass on a voluntary basis.

This guidance will be updated shortly to include more information on these changes.

An issue which is likely to cause challenges is the reaction of employers to staff who are unvaccinated. For example, it has recently been reported that Ikea has cut sick pay for unvaccinated UK staff who are forced to self-isolate. The supermarket Morrisons confirmed in September that it was cutting sick pay for unvaccinated staff and it is reported that Virgin Atlantic and other airlines will not hire cabin crew or pilots who are not fully vaccinated. Even the NHS is in the eye of this particular storm because staff who work directly with patients will be required to be fully vaccinated from April 2022.

The picture is a challenging one because different rules apply in Wales and Scotland and there is different guidance for different workplace settings. All employers should keep up to date with government guidance on working safely. Irrespective of any reputational or other concerns facing employers, they must ensure that any policy which distinguishes between vaccinated and unvaccinated staff is properly and carefully implemented. Employers should consider taking specialist employment advice because 'no jab, no job' policies might be difficult to enforce on various grounds including discrimination.

To discuss this or any other employment matter, contact us.

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