This week the Government published their Summer 2021 roadmap in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, on Monday 12 July 2021 they are expected to announce that all restrictions in England will come to an end as of 19 July 2021. Instead, the Government will be taking a more advisory approach and allowing individuals to make their own decisions as to how to respond to the pandemic.
As a result, in almost all circumstances it will no longer be a legal requirement to adhere to social distancing, nor will face coverings need to be worn. Crucially, the Government will no longer instruct employees to work from home and so employers can start to a plan a return to workplaces, if they have not done so already. All businesses will be able to open and there will be no restrictions on how many people can meet in any setting, whether indoors or outdoors. Large events can also resume without any limits on attendance.
It will remain a legal requirement to self-isolate if an individual tests positive or are told to do so by NHS test and trace. Businesses must not require a worker who is self-isolating to come to work. However, it is expected that from mid-August 2021 the Government will exempt fully vaccinated individuals from the requirement to self-isolate if they have been a contact of a positive case.
Further guidance from the Government is expected on how businesses can reduce unnecessary contact in the workplace and manage a safe return. It is expected that this will include an emphasis on regular handwashing, adequate ventilation and the use of risk assessments.
However, the Government have also made clear that it may be necessary to take further action to help manage the virus in the future, for example during the winter. They have said that they intend to prioritise strengthened guidance over imposing further restrictions. With cases already rising dramatically, how long this new response to the virus will be able to continue remains to be seen.
For that reason, many employers are introducing hybrid working policies, allowing staff the option of splitting their time between working from the office and from home. For further information on this please see our blog here. Retaining the option of dual working is likely to make it easier for employers to adapt in response to changing restrictions or potential outbreaks in the workforce over the coming months.
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