Isolation rules updated from 16th August: an end to the ‘pingdemic’?

Thursday 26th August 2021

Since the full re-opening of society on 19th July 2021, there has been a well publicised large increase in the amount of individuals being required to self-isolate either after being ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app or after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace. As a result of this, employers are beginning to suffer from staff shortages, particularly where their employees’ jobs cannot be done from home. In some cases, certainly the hospitality industry, this has meant that businesses have had to completely shut down until the end of their isolation. There is also some concern from employers that employees could abuse their self-isolation policy where they know they will be paid in full.

From 16th August 2021, all individuals who have received both doses of their COVID-19 vaccine will no longer be required to self-isolate if they are notified they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (provided at least 2 weeks have passed since their final vaccination), although it is still recommended they take a PCR test and take extra precautions.  If they get a positive test result, or develop symptoms, they would still need to isolate.

This will come as a relief to many employers as it reduces the risk of a whole work force being affected. However, not all individuals are fully vaccinated, meaning employers should be wary of the latest guidance to ensure they do not unintentionally expose themselves to any potential fines or legal liability in this respect.

You should take steps to understand which individuals are exempt and how the rules apply to each of your employees. Allowing an employee onto your premises who is required to isolate could result in you receiving a fine. To prepare, you should consider reviewing and updating your policies. You may also wish to consider whether it will be necessary to request vaccination status from employees and how to do this in compliance with data protection laws. We can advise further on this.

Guidance has changed significantly since the start of the pandemic so it is crucial that policies are kept up to date. However, you should approach any changes to policy cautiously. Requirements to evidence the need to self-isolate or provide evidence of vaccination status could give rise to tribunal claims for discrimination or breach of contract if not handled correctly.

If you would like to discuss this further, then please contact one of our employment experts below. To view the full August Employment Law Update, click here: