Updated COVID Guidance

By Gary Smith


The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) have both issued revised guidance for dealing with COVID in the workplace following the Government’s previously announced ‘Living With COVID Plan’.

It is unclear whether there will be any specific updates to the Living with COVID plan but pulling together the various strands we now know:

  1. That free testing for the general public is no longer available. Although free testing remains available to those at highest risk and those in high risk occupations, anyone else must purchase tests going forward.
  1. There is no longer a requirement for employees to inform employers if they do test positive.
  1. Those who test positive need no longer self-isolate but are advised to try and stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days. If they do leave home those who have tested positive are advised to wear a face covering and avoid crowded spaces and those with a weakened immune system.
  1. However the Government appears to have significantly expanded on it’s guidance for self-isolation:

If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, and you have a high temperature or do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people, until you no longer have a high temperature (if you had one) or until you no longer feel unwell.

It is particularly important to avoid close contact with anyone who you know is at higher risk of becoming seriously unwell if they are infected with COVID-19 and other respiratory infections, especially those whose immune system means that they are at higher risk of serious illness, despite vaccination.

Try to work from home if you can. If you are unable to work from home, talk to your employer about options available to you.

If you have been asked to attend a medical or dental appointment in person, contact your healthcare provider and let them know about your symptoms.

You may wish to ask friends, family or neighbours to get food and other essentials for you.”

This appears to be a significant expansion of the requirement to self-isolate by UKHSA, expanding the requirement for self-isolation from those with COVID to include those with any respiratory infection.  The fuller guidance can be seen here.

  1. HSE guidance no longer requires every business to consider COVID in their risk assessments or to have specific COVID-related measures in place. There is, however, a requirement to protect those who will come into contact with COVID due to their work activity. It appears therefore that the requirement for plastic screens and hand sanitiser as well as the requirement for social distancing have been dropped for most businesses.
  1. Employers must continue to comply with general health and safety law. Although the HSE will no longer require COVID control measures, employers must continue to consult workers on any changes they make that might affect health and safety in accordance with general legal requirements. This is particularly relevant to protecting those who are at higher risk from COVID.
  1. Normal SSP rules apply for periods of self-isolation and illness.

The guidance appears therefore to be quite confused. On the one hand COVID safety measures are no longer required for the majority of businesses, but on the other the guidance to self-isolate has been significantly widened. This leaves employers in a real bind as to what to do and leaves open the ongoing significant interruption to business that periods of self-isolation create. Employers will need to give thought to what, if any, other protective measures (such as screens and sanitiser) they wish to retain should they wish to insist on those suffering from a respiratory illness coming to work.

The guidance is to be updated monthly and we will have to see what impact the loss of free mass testing and the updated self-isolation requirements will have.

If you have any queries about how this impacts your business please do contact our Employment Team on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.