Greater Manchester Hazards Centre has produced this document for understanding the obligations and requirements regarding Covid workplace risks. We’ll include photos here, the pamphlet is available here.
Greater Manchester Law Centre has produced this excellent FAQ resource for understanding issues around Covid in the workplace after all Covid measures have been scrapped.
From 1 April 2022, many of the measures designed to control the spread of Covid across England will be removed. Despite this, Covid continues to exist, and in addition to a steady death rate from the virus, large numbers of people are now living with Long Covid (the estimate is 1.3 million as of 6 December 2021). Both Covid and Long Covid can have adverse effects on people’s working lives, whether through the need to take unpaid time off, lost income due to poor rates of sick pay, difficulty accessing reasonable adjustments, or even the risk of dismissal.
We spoke to the Zero Covid Campaign and others who were concerned about how the removal of Covid mitigations would affect workers. Below, GMLC’s employment lawyer and our campaign team answer questions about Covid and your workplace rights.
Changes were introduced on the 24 February 2022 in relation to self-isolation, notifying employers, support payments and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and routine contract tracing.
Further changes are due to come into effect on the 1 April 2022 in relation to risk assessments, guidance for employers and Covid Certification.
The following changes took effect on 24 February 2022:
The following further changes will take effect on 1 April 2022:
From the 24 February 2022, the £500 self-isolation support payment for people on low incomes ended.
If you were told to self-isolate before 24 February you can still make a claim within 42 days of the first day of self-isolation and no later than 6 April. For further information see the government website here.
From the 24 March 2022, the special coronavirus provisions for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will end (i.e. from this date, coronavirus sickness or self-isolation will no longer mean an individual is automatically deemed incapacitated and entitled to SSP from day one of their sickness or self-isolation).
From the 1 April 2022, if you test positive for Covid or have coronavirus symptoms you will be encouraged to ‘exercise personal responsibility’ and show consideration to others, but will not be required, nor advised, to stay at home. However, our research into Long Covid in August 2021 suggested that a significant proportion of people who caught Covid did so in workplaces or while travelling to work. Therefore, it is advisable to stay home while you may be infectious. You may wish to speak to your employer to make sure staying home while you have Covid is still a policy in your workplace.
Also from 1 April 2022, the requirement for employers to explicitly consider coronavirus in their health and safety risk assessments will be removed. However, a general risk assessment is still required, in which any potential hazard as a result of coronavirus should be taken into account. You may wish to raise this with your employer, as they still have a duty of care to keep you safe at work. The Acas guidance on employers’ duties is here.
The ‘Working safely’ guidelines for employers in different sectors will be replaced by new public health guidance, which will urge employers to continue to consider the needs of those at greater risk from coronavirus.
GMLC believes that the government guidance is currently inadequate. See Q7 for more information on how you can push for better rights and safety at work.
In these circumstances, asking employees to come to work would not breach any coronavirus-specific law, but it may be contrary to government guidance and it may also breach wider health and safety legislation.
By law, employers have a ‘duty of care’ for staff, customers and anyone else who visits the workplace.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance on:
You may be able to argue, amongst other reasons, that it is not a reasonable management instruction and, therefore, non-compliance does not put them in breach of contract. If you were dismissed for non-compliance, you could argue the dismissal was unfair (you will need two years continuous service to claim ordinary unfair dismissal).
You may also ask your employer to consider the impact on other workers if you go in to work after testing positive with Covid.
These situations can give rise to potentially complicated issues relating to health and safety and whistleblowing protection. Therefore, specialist legal advice should be sought from GMLC, a trade union or from the ACAS helpline 0300 123 1100.
Get advice. Last year, GMLC produced some guidance on your rights if you have Long Covid, which you can read here. This is a changing area of law and this was written some time ago, so for specific queries about Long Covid and your rights, we encourage you to seek out up-to-date advice by getting in touch with Acas, your trade union or GMLC.
If you’re facing a particular problem at work, you should get advice from a trade union, Acas (0300 123 1100) or your local Law Centre. GMLC can give one-off advice to residents of Greater Manchester and Lancashire on employment issues.
ORGANISE YOUR WORKPLACE
You can also organise in your workplace for improved rights and health and safety at work. If you don’t have the means to stay home when you are ill due to a lack of sick pay, you may wish to push for your contract to be changed to include full sick pay for a specified period of time to enable workers at your workplace to stay off work if they have Covid. Sick pay is something that trade unions regularly fight for in workplaces, so if you are not in a trade union, it is worth finding out if there is one in your workplace. If not, you can always join one and encourage others to join too (you don’t need to tell your employer).
If you are able to work from home, you may wish to try and negotiate flexible working so that you can stay home when you are ill. Again, this is something a trade union can help with if you are struggling to persuade your management.
If you are not in a union, you can find a union that is right for your workplace and sector with the TUC Union Finder Tool.
CAMPAIGN FOR CHANGE
You can also get involved in campaigning and lobbying for better workplace rights. The TUC has a petition on its website for a higher rate of sick pay for all workers, signed so far by over 50,000 people. Sign it here.
Many unions are pushing for better health and safety at work via union-specific campaigns. Take a look at your union’s website or contact your branch for more.
Hazards Campaign is an organisation that fights for better health and safety at work. They support unions and individuals to understand their rights. You can read more about their work here.