July 19th National NJC Guidance on COVID

The Government has announced that in England, from Monday 19 July, social distancing
guidance will no longer apply (see separate guidance for Wales and Northern Ireland). This
means that employers do not need to implement social distancing in their business, workplace
or venue, and customers, service users and employees do not need to keep apart from people
they don’t live with. However, in line with the Government’s emphasis on a gradual return to
‘normal’, employers should carefully consider retaining appropriate social distancing measures
where risk assessments identify that this could help reduce the spread of infections.

The government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, so employers
can start to plan a return to workplaces. During this period of high prevalence, the government
expects and recommends a gradual return over the summer. Employers should discuss the
timing and phasing of a return with their employees and trade union representatives. These
discussions should also include arrangements for the continuation of home working.

Employers must continue to follow statutory health and safety requirements, conduct a risk
assessment, and take reasonable steps to manage risks in their workplace.

Before any changes to COVID-19 control measures are implemented, risk assessments which
are associated with the hazard of COVID-19 transmission should be reviewed. This needs to
be undertaken in consultation with union representatives, especially where the change to the
Government’s guidelines and legislation removes or modifies COVID-19 controls.
Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV)

From 19 July, social distancing measures will be ended in the workplace and the government
will no longer instruct people to work from home. However, CEV people are at higher risk of
severe illness from COVID-19 so they may wish to think particularly carefully about taking
precautions when meeting others they do not usually meet with in order to reduce the risk of
catching or spreading COVID-19.

CEV employees should be offered individual risk assessments and their requests to continue
working from home should be properly considered and granted unless there are compelling
reasons not to do so. Consideration should be given to requests from employees to be based
at a site other than their usual workplace.
Employers have a legal responsibility to protect their employees and others from risks to their
health and safety. Employers should be able to explain to employees the measures they have
in place to keep them safe at work. Some employers may request employees to undertake
regular testing for COVID-19 to identify people who are asymptomatic. While we encourage
this, it should be noted this is a voluntary process.

The government advises that employers should carry out a risk assessment of the workplace
in line with HSE guidance and other relevant guidance for the setting, and consult with
employees or trade unions and then share the results of the risk assessment with employees
through their website. Separate workplaces should be risk assessed accordingly, eg. offices,
vehicles, depots, call centres, schools etc each of which may present their own particular
challenges and may require specific COVID-related risks to be addressed.

Employers may wish to refer to the guidance produced by NHS Employers which sets out how
to enhance existing risk assessments particularly for at-risk and vulnerable groups within the
workforce. It includes workers returning to work, and existing employees who are potentially
more at risk due to their race and ethnicity, age, weight, underlying health condition, disability,
or pregnancy.

There will be circumstances in which outbreaks of COVID in specific geographic areas will
require local restrictions that may include the reintroduction of shielding. Employers will need
to follow local instructions and guidance as such instances occur.
If employees were previously in the shielded categories, it should be made clear what steps
are being taken to protect them, for example discussing an option to reassign them to tasks
where stringent social distancing guidelines can be followed if that cannot be assured in their
normal role or allowing them to continue to work from home if possible.

Other vulnerable groups
Some people, including those aged 70 and over, those with certain underlying conditions and
pregnant women, are vulnerable, meaning they may be at higher risk of severe illness from
coronavirus. Employers should update risk assessments and should ensure all measures are
taken to minimise the risk of transmission.
Self Isolation
If an employee is fit for work but is instructed to self-isolate, their absence should not be
recorded as sickness absence. We would expect all options for home or remote working to be
explored with the employee. As they are ‘well’ at this stage they should stay on normal full pay
for the duration of the self-isolation period.
The NJC urges all employees who are called forward to be inoculated to ensure that they take
up the opportunity as soon as possible. Employers are asked to ensure that every possible
effort is made in providing employees with reasonable time off for them to receive their jab.
This guidance applies equally to when subsequent doses of vaccination will need to be
Face coverings
While face coverings will no longer be mandatory across the board after 19 July, it should be
noted that in some areas face coverings will be required, for example on public transport in
some parts of the country. The Government’s guidance states that “The government expects
and recommends that people continue to wear face coverings in crowded, enclosed spaces.”
As such, following risk assessments, employers should give consideration to mandating the
wearing of face coverings in workplaces, particularly those which are public spaces and / or
could become crowded, along with other mitigation measures such as barriers / screens,
effective ventilation, and changes to the layout of workplaces.

NJC Circ Coronavirus and working arrangements from 19 July 16Jul21[75401]

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