As all legal Covid restrictions have now been removed the Government has replaced regulations with principles based guidance for employers.
The aim of the guidance is to reduce the risk of infection within the workplace whilst treating Covid-19 as any other respiratory illness going forward. The “Working Safely” guidance has now been removed but employers may still choose to implement some of the practices introduced over the last couple of years.
There is no longer a need for a covid specific risk assessment but Covid rates are still high as are staff shortages in hospitality which presents challenges for operators. You should talk to staff about what will keep them feeling safe. You may want to retain some of the good practices from last few years e.g. screens and table hygiene measures even though they are no longer legally required.
What is covered by the new guidance?
The guidance covers all respiratory infections and includes a long list of symptoms of flu and common respiratory infections as well as Covid. The list can be found here
The list is a very wide list and includes symptoms such a “stuffy or runny nose” which could be hayfever rather than covid or a respiratory infection.
What if an employee has symptoms?
The guidance suggests that an employee with symptoms of a respiratory infection should stay at home and avoid contact with others. This includes working from home if possible.
As working from home is rarely an option in the hospitality sector you will need to talk to staff about how to manage respiratory illness and build this into your existing policies. The approach going forward is business led management rather than regulation.
There has undoubtedly been a shift in behavioural attitudes towards going to work when not feeling well. However, this could be more challenging in hospitality where often staff don’t get paid if they don’t turn up for a shift.
Are staff with Covid entitled to be paid for time off?
The right to SSP for covid absence has been removed meaning that an employee will not receive SSP unless they are absent for 4 days or more. There is now no legal requirement for an employee to isolate if they have Covid so it will be a challenge for businesses to justify paying staff. However, as an operator you will want to assess the risk to your workforce of allowing an unwell employee to come to work. Ultimately this may lead to a widespread outbreak and might even mean you are forced to shut your venue.
You will need to deal with covid/respiratory illness on a case by case basis and work together with each employee to keep them and others safe. You should ask questions such as have they tested, when did symptoms start, how are they feeling and assess whether they are well enough to return to work without risk of spreading covid to other staff. You should also consider employees who are at greater risk (see below).
Ultimately you will need an employee to agree to remain off work. The only way to force them to stay at home is to suspend them on full pay. You may decide to offer to pay staff, on a discretionary basis, if they aren’t well enough to work if you assess that they are at risk of spreading covid to others.
Employees who are at greater risk
As an employer you should consider the needs of employees who are at greater risk from Covid and discuss with them how best this can be done within the business. In some cases staff may be able to request reasonable adjustments are made under Equality legislation.
Previous requirements removed
- The legal requirement to report an outbreak of covid has now been removed
- There is now no requirement to display QR code posters or keep records in England. Operators should delete this data to comply with GDPR requirements.
- Talk to staff about what will make them feel safe going forward
- Amend your absence policy to reflect your current approach to staff with covid
The Guidance on reducing the spread of covid and other respiratory infections in the workplace can be found here
The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.