As of 24th February 2022, there were some key legislative changes around COVID-19 such as the legal requirement to self-isolate being removed and no legal requirement for workers to inform their employer that they need to self-isolate, among other changes.
This has already caused concern for some businesses and understandably so. When it was a legality you could either do something or you couldn’t, however this ‘guidance’ does just that, guides rather than tells. Hopefully we can help a little.
The Information You Need
While workers don’t legally need to tell you anymore if they need to self-isolate, you, as an employer, can still ask them to tell you. Sure they could omit the fact or outright deny it which you can’t control but what you can control is the message you deliver right now.
You can reiterate the public health guidance, repeat the need to keep each other safe and restate your commitment to health and safety through process and policy.
Adding actions forms part of that message, and an effective action could be to offer enhanced sick pay to staff who need to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19. A loss of pay could potentially encourage the omission of truth and for workers to attend the workplace, whereas if they won’t be financially disadvantaged they will be more inclined to isolate.
Whilst on the subject of sick pay, it is also worth noting that from 24th March 2022 SSP will no longer be available from day one for COVID-19 sickness, the expectation is that it will revert back to being only for illness and after 3 days.
So in summary, if someone has tested positive, be consistent and fair in your approach. You could still request that the worker doesn’t come to the workplace, which would be following the public health guidance. Alternatively, you could focus on keeping them in work by taking reasonable measures to keep them and the rest of the workforce safe employing the techniques honed over the past 2 years. Understandably the second option carries more risk, and unless executed in the context of the whole workplace, there could not only be the obvious H&S issues and associated liabilities but also complaints and grievances by fellow workers who aren’t positive for COVID-19, which of course need to be taken seriously.
We recommend following the government guidance, there is a reason for it. If this isn’t possible at this time then the best advice we can give is to be reasonable, fair and consistent.
We Can Help
For further advice and guidance in regards to this particular subject and further employment law updates – Make sure to get in touch with our team of experts today.