Living with Covid guidance
Unfortunately, as at the time of writing this, we are still waiting for the government to issue public health guidance on living with Covid-19. It is hoped that this guidance will provide some steer for employers given that the working safely guidance no longer applies from 1 April.
What we do have is a policy paper which the government published on 24 March in relation to the new Regulations revoking the temporary Covid-19 Statutory Sick Pay provisions. This provides an indication of what the public health guidance will say. The policy paper notes that, going forward Covid-19 will be dealt with in a "very different way". From 1 April, the Secretary of State is satisfied that there will be a rationale for treating Covid-19 like other respiratory illnesses.There will be a move towards personal responsibility and it will be a matter for employers to determine how to manage infectious diseases in the workplace just as they do with other health and safety risks. The paper advises employers to determine what their policies will be in relation to sickness management in the workplace and to engage and communicate with their workforces.
In terms of those who are clinically extremely vulnerable any workplace-related concerns they have should be a "matter of discussion between employer and employee". The government has said that it will offer guidance on what actions can be taken to reduce the spread of respiratory infections in the workplace.
In the meantime, the government has confirmed that, while Covid-19 testing will end for the general public, free Covid tests will continue to be available in some high-risk settings where infection can spread rapidly while prevalence is high. This will include patient-facing staff in the NHS and NHS-commissioned Independent Healthcare Providers, staff in hospices and adult social care services, such as homecare organisations and care homes, a small number of care home visitors who provide personal care, staff in some prisons and places of detention and in high risk domestic abuse refuges and homelessness settings. Testing will also be provided for residential SEND, care home staff and residents during an outbreak and for care home residents upon admission. This will also include some staff in prisons and immigration removal centres.
The government has also confirmed that, from 1 April, those working in adult social care services will continue to receive free PPE, and priority vaccinations and boosters for residents and staff will continue. There will be updated guidance for adult social care providers and staff setting out the testing regime across adult social care, as well as streamlined guidance on infection and prevention and control measures to set out long-standing principles on good practice and "to support consistency across the adult social care sector". This will include details on future measures for Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses so that providers have the latest information on best practice, including information on admissions, visiting and PPE.
Finally, the government has confirmed that updated guidance from 1 April will advise those with symptoms of a respiratory infection, including Covid-19, and a high temperature, or who feel unwell, to try and stay at home and avoid contact with other people until they feel well enough to resume normal activities and no longer have a high temperature. Anyone with a positive Covid-19 test will be advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days (when they are at their most infectious).