The Government has announced that it plans to remove the requirement for those who contract COVID-19 to self isolate early. Rather than 24th March 2022, this could be brought forward to as early as 24th February 2022.
Given that they have been talking about the need to self isolate if you test positive for COVID-19 this will also mean the end of self isolation for those who are unvaccinated and close contacts of a positive contact.
So what does this mean for workplaces up and down the country and in our case in particular what does it mean for Early Years?
Firstly, nothing is guaranteed. However, as we’ve come to recognise in this pandemic if the Government makes these kinds of announcements they tend to happen, as they don’t like to be seen to be doing a U-turn.
As far as employers go, we feel this news presents employers with a number of challenges:
- Ok so from 24th February 2022 someone who is contagious with COVID-19 can come to work. How exactly do customers and colleagues feel about this? COVID-19 still represents a risk to the vulnerable and those who are unvaccinated. There will be many people in society who really do not want to find out whether the booster has been effective in keeping them out of hospital. We feel this will test employers as customers and colleagues will see it as the employer’s job to keep them safe.
- How will the parents of your Day Nursery react to seeing staff who display symptoms of COVID-19 working with their children? Will they complain? Will you be asked what you are doing to manage Health and Safety with symptomatic staff in the building. Before COVID-19 no one would have worried if a staff member coughed or sneezed within earshot of a client, but now?
- What about your pregnant staff? The risk to women who are unvaccinated contracting COVID-19 and having their baby prematurely remains and will be here even if the requirement to self isolate goes. We can see more risk assessments identifying that having COVID-19 in the Day Nursery could make it unsafe for pregnant women to remain in the workplace. This would have a costly impact on the setting as maternity suspension is at full pay.
- We all know how difficult it can be to social distance in Early Years. How will your staff feel about working every day with colleagues who have COVID-19 but have brought themselves to work? Will it be down to employers to suspend a colleague on medical grounds. If so that will be on full pay, how will the employer afford to do that? With no self isolation requirement, we can only assume their will be no COVID SSP Rebate Scheme and no requirement to pay SSP. The burden of the cost of any SSP where the employee is unfit to attend work will be again borne by the employer.
- Will free lateral flow tests end at the same time? There would be no need to test if no need to self isolate.
We expect that this further relaxation will bring challenges to the employer in Early Years. Whilst we can all agree that removing self isolation means that more staff will be available to be deployed, at what cost? Will this move negatively impact staff morale, customer confidence, increase numbers of grievances, result in more medical suspensions. We feel it will.
If you need any assistance with any aspect of managing staff in the pandemic, please call us on 01527 909436.