Updated Covid Regulations
The UK Government has introduced new regulations following the discovery of the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, which has been labelled as a ‘variant of concern’.
The new regulations, which came into force at 4.00am on 30 November 2021, have made face coverings mandatory on all public transport and in shops, with the hope that this will limit the spread of Omicron.
The new regulations also require close contacts of anyone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant to self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status. Employers need to remember that anyone who is told to self-isolate after being contacted by NHS Track & Trace is entitled to SSP from day one. If the employee is not displaying symptoms, one option may be to ask them to work from home if their role allows them to do so. Anyone who does not self-isolate after being informed that they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive for the Omicron variant risks being fined up to £10,000.
The third Covid-19 booster is also being made available to everyone aged 18 and over, with the prescribed period between receiving the second vaccination and the booster having been reduced from six months to three. It is important that employers encourage and support employees that request time off to attend appointments to receive their booster.
Employers may wish to introduce mandatory lateral flow testing, but this may present issues if employees refuse to comply. Instead, it is best practice to strongly encourage employees to voluntarily test regularly rather than make it mandatory.
The Government has also reintroduced compulsory second day testing when re-entering the UK from abroad, which may mean that employees who are due to go abroad will have to request more time off to comply with these regulations. Employers should consider whether offering affected employees options such as unpaid leave or special paid leave would be appropriate.