You may have read my colleague, Libby Hubbard’s ebriefing last week concerning the lifting of the Covid-19 restrictions.
There are mixed feelings about this generally but many health and social care employers are asking the question; What does this mean for us?
Piecing together the Guidance we have received, this is what the current state of play is concerning the headline issues:
What we do know
All care workers should continue to take daily rapid lateral flow tests (LFT) on the days that they are working before they start work. This is regardless of vaccination status and whether symptomatic or not. Live-in workers also need to conduct daily LFTs as close to the beginning of the day as possible and 24 hours apart.
Testing remains unchanged as free lateral flow tests will be available for all care workers. By contrast, testing from 1 April for everyone else in England will cease to be free.
In the care sector, staff who test positive for Covid-19 will still need to contact their employer and self-isolate for a minimum of five days and then only return to work after two consecutive negative LFD tests.
Contacts of positive cases will also need to obtain a PCR but subject to that being negative they can return to work (regardless of their vaccination status) but will need to continue to LFD test for 10 days (regardless of whether they are working those days or not).
This was all confirmed in this guidance, which was updated on 24 February.
This remains unchanged.
The differentiation between non vaccinated and vaccinated staff has been removed. This guidance applies to all staff regardless of their vaccination status.
STATUTORY SICK PAY (SSP)
From 24 March 2022, the Covid-19 provisions for SSP will come to an end and will revert to pre-pandemic rules i.e. an individual is only entitled to SSP if they are sick and then only from the fourth qualifying day.
Despite the ongoing requirement for care staff to self-isolate, see above, no guidance has been issued specifically on how care staff should be paid when self-isolating due to Covid-19.Care staff who test positive for Covid-19 and are unable to work due to the symptoms will be entitled to SSP (or contractual sick pay) in the usual way that they would be if they were absent from work due to another illness such as cold/flu. The Government have not expressly said how care staff who test positive but experience no/mild symptoms and are therefore able to work, but for the guidance that they self-isolate, should be paid. We consider that there is still an argument that these staff would still be eligible to be paid SSP. However, the precise wording of the SSP Regulations is no longer 100% clear on this point.
Staff who are absent and ill with Covid-19 will not qualify for SSP from day one of their sickness.
Asymptomatic close contacts who are self-isolating awaiting a PCR test are not entitled to SSP during this period of absence unless their test result is positive, and therefore should be paid their full contractual pay.
If an employer implements a policy that staff who test positive but who are well enough to work should, irrespective of their wellness, stay at home (and there is no work for them to do at home), the staff member should be paid full pay for the period that they are at home. This is provided that there is no government guidance advising that the staff member self-isolate (which only covers health and social care staff).
We are still awaiting guidance on the consultation regarding Infection and Prevention Control Code of Practice and whether the Government will bring in vaccinations by back door via CQC inspections.
See Matthew Wort’s recent blog on whether mandatory vaccination is really over or not.
We will continue to keep everyone updated – watch this space.
If your organisation needs advice on any of the issues raised in this blog, please do not hesitate to contact me.