COVID-19: changes to risk assessments, testing and self-isolation

Emma Gross
2 March 2022

COVID-19: Self-isolation requirements revoked from 24 February 2022, with a number of additional changes expected on April 1, leaving a number of legal and practical issues to be considered by employers.

The big news to come out of February has been the Government’s new ‘Living with Covid‘ plan. The document sets out how the Government has and will continue to protect and support citizens by enabling society and the economy to open up, using vaccines, and supporting the NHS and social care sector. It also sets out how England will move into a new phase of managing COVID-19 which I have broken down below:

As of February 24th:

  • The legal requirement to self-isolate when you have a confirmed case of Covid-19 has been revoked. In its place, those testing positive are now advised to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for at least 5 full days and then continue until they have received 2 negative test results on consecutive days.
  • Workers are no longer legally obliged to tell their employers when they are required to self-isolate.
  • Guidance for vaccinated close contacts to take daily tests for 7 days and of the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate has been removed. New guidance that sets out the precautions that close contacts are advised to take to reduce risk to other people is expected in April. Other contacts of people with COVID-19 will be advised to take extra care in following the new general guidance for the public on safer behaviours.
  • Self-isolation support payments and national funding for practical support have ended. 
  • Routine contact tracing has ended.
  • The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No. 3) Regulations have been revoked.

From March 24 the government will:

  • Remove the COVID-19 specific provisions relating to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), following the closure of the SSP rebate scheme on 17 March.

From April 1 the government will:

  • No longer recommend that certain venues use the NHS COVID Pass.
  • Update guidance for those who test positive, and their close contacts, on minimising contact with others.
  • End free lateral flow testing for the wider population. Some free testing will continue to be available to social care staff and certain at-risk groups.
  • Issue new public health guidance to replace the current ‘Working Safely’ guidance.
  • Remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments.
  • Consolidate guidance to the public and businesses, in line with public health advice.

What should you do?

There are a number of legal and practical issues here, and it is important that employers consider the steps they need to take in order to protect their businesses. I would highly recommend reviewing your policies and procedures to avoid confusion and minimise the risk of potential disputes with your employees. If you would like to draft, review or update any of your company’s contracts, policies or procedures, please get in touch.  

Emma Gross
Partner – Employment, Data Protection
Emma Gross is a Partner Solicitor at Spencer West. She specialises in Complex employment tribunal cases, data protection and the GDPR, negotiating settlements and advising on fair and reasonable redundancy procedures.