What are the new self-isolation rules?

As part of the everchanging guidance, 16th August 2021 sees a change to the UK’s self-isolation rules which have, quite possibly, posed the largest disruption to the UK’s workforce throughout the pandemic.

As of 16th August 2021, those individuals that are “double-jabbed” (and received their second dose more than 14 days prior) or are under 18 years old and identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, will no longer be legally required to self-isolate.

Previously, those identified as close contacts of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 were required to self-isolate for 10 days, starting from the date of the last contact.

Instead, those under 18 years old or who are double-jabbed and have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case or contacted by the NHS Test and Trace system are encouraged to take a PCR test as soon as possible – but will not strictly be required to isolate for any period of time. Whilst other precautions such as avoiding vulnerable people and crowded areas or wearing a face covering are encouraged, self-isolation is no longer legally required.

Those who do test positive for COVID-19 themselves must still self-isolate regardless of their age or vaccination status. While those who develop COVID-19 symptoms should still self-isolate pending the result of a PCR test.

What do the new COVID regulations mean for nightlife workers?

Employers have suffered repeated unavoidable staff absences due to past self-isolation rules. But how will the latest changes come into play?

We are finding some employers are wanting to continue to follow the earlier self-isolation rules where employees continue to self-isolate when they have been in close contact with a confirmed positive case – even if they have a negative PCR test result in line with the new guidance.

Conversely, we have employers of vulnerable individuals who, regardless of their vaccination status, remain at risk of infection and will need a risk assessment to be carried out in the workplace.

Self-isolation rules are no longer a legal requirement, so what are your options?

Over the last 18 months we have seen a definite increase in the number of employees working from home in the wake of the Government guidance to work from home wherever possible. Some employers have continued to adopt this approach beyond the response to COVID-19 and it indeed continues to be a valid option during periods of self-isolation be it a legal requirement or employer preference.

What to remember about coming to work during COVID restrictions:

  • The employee is not legally required to self-isolate and is not therefore eligible to receive Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”) or the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.
  • Employees who are awaiting a PCR result under the new guidance are unlikely to qualify to receive SSP as there is a minimum requirement of 4 days spent self-isolating before they become eligible and a test result is unlikely to take that long.
  • An employer can reasonably dictate when an employee takes their annual leave, though taking annual leave when not legally required to do so is unlikely to be considered as “reasonable”.
  • Assuming the employee is fit, able and willing to work it would appear in these circumstances that the employee ought to be paid their usual rate of pay during periods that an employer requires they self-isolate from the workplace beyond the Government guidelines.
  • Another common query is whether an employer is permitted to ask an employee about their vaccination status or see proof. The short answer is yes. However, there is a slightly longer consideration which must be kept in mind. When collecting information of this kind an employer will be collecting special category health data and the Information Commissioner’s Office (“ICO”) has published advice requiring that the data must be necessary and relevant for a specific purpose; but if there is a good reason, then processing the data will be lawful. We consider that collecting the data for “substantial public interest” to prevent the spread of the virus, for example, would make processing the data lawful.

As with most employment relations we encourage clubs to be open and communicate with their employees, which will often allow issues to be resolved quickly and informally.

For guidance on reopening your club post-lockdown and how to get back to normality, see our reopening checklist.