What are the new rules around masks and social distancing?
All legal coronavirus restrictions ended on the 19th of July in England. That means masks and social distancing will no longer be enforceable by law from the 19th of July.
This change also means end to the work from home guidance. Also scrapped are limits on the number of people who can attend events, closures of certain types of businesses, like nightclubs, and the requirement for businesses to display QR codes for people to check in (although the government says it would still like businesses to do that).
Of course, you can still choose to take safety precautions such as wearing masks to protect yourself and others. We’d recommend that you do that if you feel that it’s the right thing to do in your work situation.
Science is clear that there’s still a significant benefit to wearing face coverings in indoor settings so that transmission is minimised. The TUC have called for masks to continue to be worn on public transport and in retail settings, arguing that this will not stop re-opening but will help to keep people safe.
There are special rules in some places, for example, on the underground, and certain shops or restaurants may introduce their own rules.
Can my employer tell me to go back to the workplace now?
Yes, they can. The “work from home” guidance ends on July 19th.
Remember employers still have a legal duty to protect your health and safety at work.
Get in touch with us if you are worried, particularly if you have a disability, have been shielding or are pregnant as there may be some ways that we can support you if your employer isn’t able to take suitable measures to protect you in the workplace.
For many people, the change to the rules will mean returning to your usual workplace if your employer asks you to.
Many community members are already working in their usual workplaces, and many have been throughout the pandemic.
What if I am shielding/ have been shielding?
People described as “clinically extremely vulnerable” were advised to shield because they have a higher risk of serious consequences if they get covid.
If you are in this situation, you may be offered a third vaccine dose in September. You can still request that your employer furloughs you, until the end of September- but that this is still at your employer’s discretion. If you’re self-employed, you may be able to claim from the fifth SEISS grant.
Your employer should do an individual risk assessment – speak to your union rep or service centre if you need help encouraging your employer to do this.
What safety measures should be taken at my workplace?
Your employer should update their risk assessments to make sure that they reflect the current situation. They have a legal duty to conduct a risk assessment and to take steps to reduce risk.
We expect your employer to consult with employee representatives, including through the union before making changes to health and safety management.
We want to see really strong risk management systems in workplaces. Not only will this keep people safe, but it will also give people the confidence that it is safe to return to work. If you are worried about health and safety at your workplace, please get in touch with your union.
One of the most important things to look out for at your workplace is good ventilation. Having good airflow indoors is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your colleagues from covid-19. To ensure good ventilation, workplaces can open windows, switch off systems that recirculate air, use upper room UV disinfectant and mobile filtration units. It’s good practice for your employer to use a CO2 monitory to identify areas where there’s poor ventilation and fix the problem.
Your workplace might have a requirement that you wear a face covering in their risk assessment. If the risk assessment done at your workplace says that face coverings are an important control, then you should wear one to protect yourself and others.
Finally, more frequent cleaning of work areas and frequently touched surfaces is advisable.
If you’re self-employed, you should do your own risk assessments, following the guidance above about good practice.
What is happening about vaccines?
Whilst lots of people in the country have now been vaccinated against coronavirus, there’s still a lot of people in the country who haven’t had a first dose of the vaccine and many younger adults haven’t yet had their second. And remember children and teenagers have not been vaccinated. There are big differences between areas. Some local authorities say that only one in three adults in their area have received both doses.
The vaccine rollout will continue. Some people will be called for a booster jab in the Autumn.
We’ve produced guidance about coronavirus vaccines here if you’ve got questions about getting the vaccine.
Will I need to get a third vaccine?
The government has said that “clinically extremely vulnerable” and older workers should get a booster jab in September.
Has anything changed regarding sick pay?
Nothing has changed regarding sick pay. If you are unwell or self-isolating because of coronavirus you should be entitled to your usual sick pay, whether that is company sick pay or statutory sick pay.
we continue to call upon the government to provide proper levels of sick pay to all workers including the self-employed. The UK’s statutory sick pay is some of the lowest in Europe. We think that’s wrong. And there are still thousands of workers who aren’t entitled even to statutory sick pay- including 1 in 12 key workers. We stand with other unions in campaigning for better sick pay.
Can I still get a self-isolation payment?
Yes, if you are asked to self-isolate by the test and trace system or by the NHS covid app then if you are eligible, you can still get a payment to support you to self-isolate. You can find out about that grant here. These payments will continue until at least the end of September 2021.
Warning: Be aware that whether you are successful or not in your application, then you will be legally obliged to self-isolate once you have applied for the grant.
Do I still have to self-isolate?
If you are notified by the NHS covid app or test and trace, or you’re a close contact of someone with coronavirus, you should self-isolate.
However, from the 16th August, if you have been vaccinated and it’s been two weeks since your second dose, then you don’t have to self-isolate if you’ve been a contact of someone who has coronavirus. From that date, under-18s also will not have to self-isolate when “pinged”.
If you test positive for coronavirus, then you will still have to self-isolate, regardless of whether you have been vaccinated. This will remain a legal requirement.
What’s happening about the furlough scheme?
Plans to wind down the furlough scheme are still in force. Back in March the scheme was extended until the end of September. The rules around how much your employer has to contribute changed on the 1st of July, and their contribution will increase again in August. You can find our guide to the furlough scheme here.
What’s happening about the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme?
The fifth and final grant of the SEISS is being paid in July. You can find out more about how the scheme works here.
Can I still get tested for coronavirus?
Yes, if you have symptoms of coronavirus, you can still get a test after 19th July.
If you don’t have symptoms, we’re being told that the government plans to introduce a charge for lateral flow tests at some point. We think that this is a mistake- you can read our statement about it here. We don’t yet know exactly when this might happen, but news reports suggest that lateral flow tests may only be free until the end of July. However, for now the government’s official statements say, “Regular asymptomatic testing will continue”.
If you get tested at work, it may be that your employer will have to start paying for tests. You shouldn’t have to pay for your own tests- your employer should provide them.
We will update you as soon as it’s clearer what is going to happen.
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