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Roadmap Review, COVID-Status Certification Reports and Social Distancing Update

on Friday, 16 July 2021.

Following the publishing of further outcome reports on the roadmap reviews, the Prime Minister has confirmed that England will move to the final stage of easing coronavirus restrictions on 19 July.

Here is a summary of the main changes employers need to be aware of.

Social Distancing

The guidance states that on 19 July, most legal restrictions will end, removing the need for social distancing and social contact restrictions, enabling remaining businesses, such as theatres and night clubs, to reopen. This reflects the progress made in relation to the vaccination rollout as all those aged 18 or over have now been offered a first dose of the vaccine.

The social distancing review addresses the effectiveness of face covering, working from home and social distancing. With regards to social distancing, the review states that whilst social distancing is a method to reduce the risk of infection, it is one of the most economically disruptive measures to supress transmission as various sectors have been disproportionately affected by the use of social distancing. The sectors include hospitality, arts, entertainment, recreation, and travel, which have all been affected the most as social distancing inevitably leads to capacity limits for venues. Additionally, it was the most difficult/impossible for employees in these sectors to work from home.

Face coverings were also assessed, although the conclusions were limited as the effectiveness of face coverings has always been assessed alongside social distancing. From 19 July, face coverings will no longer be required by law. However, evidence stated that face coverings are likely to be most effective in reducing transmission indoors where social distancing is not feasible and they are still 'expected and recommended' in crowded enclosed spaces.

People will no longer be required to work from home, and the Government is recommending that a return to the workplace is carried out gradually. The review states that the overall impact of working from home guidance on productivity is complex and varies by sector. Positives include the cost and time saving benefit whilst not having to commute, whereas mental health and an inability to share ideas with colleagues were flagged as negatives to continual working from home.

Therefore, employers will need to review how they will be able to reopen offices and work spaces (where not already done so) in a way which minimises the risk of transmission as much as possible, and how to manage employees who may be reluctant to stop working from home, even if a full return to the workplace is required by the employer.

COVID-Status Certification Reviews

The Government has decided that it will not mandate the use of COVID-status certification as a condition of entry for visitors to any setting at the present time, and it is up to individual businesses whether they will require COVID-status certification (subject to them ensuring that they are complying with legal obligations). The reasoning provided was that the impact on businesses would be disproportionate to the public health benefit at this stage of the pandemic.

There will however be a COVID-status certification system, for individuals to be able to demonstrate COVID-status when this is felt by businesses to be appropriate 'as a matter of social responsibility.' However, the report has stated that the Government is reserving the right to make certification mandatory in certain venues in the future if necessary, particularly if the situation worsens in autumn or winter, although it is highly unlikely essential public services or public transport would ever require the use of COVID-status certification.  

Looking Ahead

As we continue on the path to recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, employers should still be mindful of whether certain measures should still be kept in place such as face covering or social distancing when possible, in order to avoid coronavirus being transmitted and individuals subsequently not being able to attend the workplace.

Employers will also have to take into account how they will be able to support employees into feeling confident enough to return to the workplace, and whether the long-term benefits of allowing employees more flexible working patterns outweigh any negative impact that prolonged working from home has had on their businesses.  

Our employment lawyers at VWV can advise you on what changes you can make at the workplace following the updated guidance, along with reviewing any policies which could be updated. Please contact Ellen Netto in our Employment Law team on 07384 812798, or fill in the form below.

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