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The lockdown extension and important news for employers

Published 21 June 2021

The announcement of a four-week extension before lockdown restrictions will finally be lifted in England was surrounded by crucial news for employers. 

Whether an employee will need a jab for a job, be working from home in the foreseeable future or in fact is actually safe behind a Perspex screen at work were all topics that also made headlines. 

The measures which are designed to combat the spread of coronavirus (Covid- 19) in workplaces received notable coverage. 

The easing of lockdown restrictions in England has now been delayed until 19 July (1) 

The news came after scientists warned of a "significant resurgence" in people needing hospital treatment for Covid-19 if the easing of lockdown went ahead as planned on 21 June. 

With the extension of the remaining lockdown restrictions there were three bits of news employers should take note of. 

Covid jabs 'to be made compulsory' for care home staff in England 

Reports have suggested that coronavirus jabs are set to be made compulsory for care home staff in England, with considerations ongoing on whether to extend the measure to all NHS staff. 

The proposed move, which is said to have the support of government ministers, will mean that care staff working with adults will be given 16 weeks to get vaccinated or face dismissal (2) 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said it is “reasonable" to legally require care home staff to be vaccinated (3) 

However, it did advise that safeguards should be included to minimise the risk of discrimination by including exemptions, such as for staff who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. 

At present an employer cannot make a member of staff get the vaccination if the worker does not wish to do so. 

Staff can be encouraged to get vaccinated and be given reliable information about the vaccine, so that they are able to make an informed choice. 

If an employee does raise concerns about having the vaccination, it is important to listen to them, take them seriously and treat them reasonably. 

Working from home 

There have been mixed messages regarding employees working from home in the future, and whether or not they will ever have to return to the office. 

Policing minister Kit Malthouse said there were no plans to make it compulsory for workers to return to their regular place of work full-time (4) 

He is reported to have said that decisions on whether working from home could continue after the end of lockdown were matters for employers and their staff to negotiate. 

Suggestions for a legal right to flexible working has caused concern that employers will be blocked from insisting staff attend their place of work unless they can prove it is essential. 

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared last month it was his intention to end working from home with the original plan to lift lockdown on 21 June (5) 

Current government advice is that employees should continue to work from home where they can. If they cannot work from home they should continue to travel to their workplace (6) It is expected that this advice will be updated in the coming weeks. 

Perspex screens 

When workplaces reopened after the original lifting of lockdown many installed Perspex screens to protect staff and customers. 

But, now a report is said to have emerged which questions the effectiveness of the type of screens that you typically find in offices, restaurants and hair and beauty salons (7) 

Experts are said to be concerned that the screens do not prevent the spread of Covid and could in fact increase transmissibility. 

The draft Whitehall document is reported to say the transparent plastic screens are often “incorrectly positioned” and could make matters worse by “blocking airflow that helps disperse any virus droplets”.  

This is despite the fact “screens or barriers” are listed as “additional control measures” in government guidance for offices (8) 

 

It is said that the Health and Safety Executive will keep its guidance under review based on the latest evidence, and should that evidence necessitate a change, it will be changed. 

 

References: 

(1) The easing of lockdown restrictions in England has now been delayed until 19 July [Internet] www.bbc.co.uk [Cited 21.6.21] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-57476776 

(2) Care staff working with adults will be given 16 weeks to get vaccinated or face dismissal [Internet] www.carehome.co.uk [Cited 21.6.21] https://www.carehome.co.uk/news/article.cfm/id/1651450/Compulsory-covid-vaccination 

(3) Commissioner states it is “reasonable" to legally require care home staff to be vaccinated [Internet] www.personneltoday.com [Cited 21.6.21] https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/mandatory-vaccination-covid-ehrc-compulsory-care-home-staff-nhs/ 

(4) Policing minister Kit Malthouse said there were no plans to make it compulsory for workers to return to their regular place of work full-time [Internet] www.metro.co.uk [Cited 21.6.21] https://metro.co.uk/2021/06/18/we-wont-force-people-to-return-to-office-assures-kit-malthouse-14792722/ 

(5) Prime Minister Boris Johnson declared last month it was his intention to end working from home with the original plan to lift lockdown on 21 June [Internet] www.sky.com [Cited 21.6.21] https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-boris-johnson-aims-to-end-work-from-home-guidance-from-21-june-12304499 

(6) Current government advice is that employees should continue to work from home where they can [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 21.6.21] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/covid-19-coronavirus-restrictions-what-you-can-and-cannot-do. 

(7) Questions the effectiveness of the type of screens [Internet] www.independent.co.uk [Cited 21.6.21] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/covid-transmission-perspex-screens-scrapped-b1867019.html 

(8) Additional control measures [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 21.6.21] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/offices-and-contact-centres 

 

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For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

A reputation built on success

For employment law advice or if you are affected or want information and support by any of the issues in this article please give us a call. 

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