How should employers respond to the removal of coronavirus restrictions in England?

The legal requirements to self-isolate were removed in England on 24 February 2022. From 24 March 2022, coronavirus-specific rules on entitlement to statutory sick pay (SSP) are removed, so that an employee will be entitled to SSP only if they are unwell and not able to work (not if they are well but staying at home in line with government advice). From 1 April, free coronavirus testing is no longer available to the public in England.

While there is no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate, government guidance advises that people with coronavirus symptoms, or who have tested positive, should stay at home and avoid contact with others. They are advised to work from home if they can. Those who have been in close contact with an infected person are advised to limit close contact with people outside their household.

In response to these changes, employers should decide on their approach to employees who may be infectious with coronavirus but who are not themselves ill. Employers must ensure that they continue to comply with their health and safety duties and employment law responsibilities to employees. They should make decisions based on an assessment of the risks in their own workplaces. They should consider consulting with employees before deciding on their approach.

If employees are able to work from home, enabling them to do so is likely to be appropriate if they have tested positive or have been a close contact.

Where employees cannot work from home, an employer may decide on a policy of requiring them to stay away from the workplace, to avoid the spread of coronavirus. If it takes this approach the employer must pay employees in full if they are well and would otherwise be ready and willing to attend work (unless the contract allows for a reduction in pay). See also Can an employer require an employee to attend work if they test positive for coronavirus but are asymptomatic?.

Some employers may consider funding testing for employees, particularly where there are specific risks such as contact with people who are vulnerable from coronavirus.