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Updated Government Guidance

Despite the recent lifting of the coronavirus restrictions across the UK, the guidance reminds us that Covid-19 continues to present a significant risk, and that it is still possible to catch and spread the virus even if you have been vaccinated.  It therefore emphasises that we should continue to take measures to protect ourselves and others.

The Government is no longer instructing people in England to work from home from 19 July.  However, while employers can begin to plan a return to the workplace, this does not mean employees should all be coming back at once. The guidance states that the Government expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer months. Although 19 July is the applicable date in England, similar easing of restrictions are taking place throughout the United Kingdom.

It is also no longer compulsory to wear a face covering and the 2-metre social distancing rule has been lifted.  However, the Government recommends that face coverings continue to be worn in enclosed spaces such as public transport; and that people should meet outdoors where possible and ensure that fresh air is coming in while indoors.

Employers will also need to follow the Government’s updated guidance on what businesses need to do to protect staff and customers in the workplace, which can be found via this link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-covid-19 . It includes the need to frequently clean surfaces that are touched by people regularly; identify areas where there is poor ventilation and take measures to improve airflow; and ensure that customers and employees who are displaying symptoms of Covid-19 do not attend the workplace.

The guidance goes on to remind employers that they still have a legal duty to take measures to ensure that the workplace is a safe place. Employers need to continue therefore to undertake health and safety risk assessments, including risks relating to Covid-19, and take reasonable steps to mitigate any risks identified.  It may be prudent for employers to keep existing risk assessments under review, to ensure that they adequately respond to changing circumstances, particularly now that staff may be returning to the workplace.