Easing of lockdown restrictions

The exit plan for lifting COVID-19 restrictions was announced in February 2021 and businesses must prepare for reopening safely. To read a detailed breakdown of the plan, head to our summary here, or read the full plan on gov.uk.

There is full guidance on what businesses can do to prepare for reopening here.

The dates set by Government are dependant on the COVID-19 data at each point and so businesses must also be prepared for each step to be extended.

New vaccine toolkit for employers

The Department for Health has launched a new toolkit for employers to help ensure employees get reliable information about COVID-19 vaccines. Several major businesses, including Asda, IKEA and Santander, have already pledged to promote vaccine uptake with their employees and to allow flexibility for staff to get vaccinated during work hours.

Access the toolkit to get materials for you to run internal awareness campaigns promoting the benefits of vaccination, including key messages, posters, fact sheets and videos providing accurate up to date information. The government is calling on as many employers as possible to join the campaign and support the efforts to continue to bring the nation out of lockdown.

Workplace testing programme expanded to offer free rapid home testing

Business owners are able to offer their employees free, rapid and regular testing that can be taken at home, helping to protect your staff and your business. Lateral flow testing is a fast and simple way to test people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19, but who may still be spreading the virus.

Businesses who are already registered can order free rapid lateral flow tests until 19 July. If you’ve not registered you cannot order free tests. But you can choose to either buy your own tests and set up your own workplace testing or pay an approved provider to provide tests or run a test site for you. If you cannot set up testing, you can ask your employees to check if they can get a rapid lateral flow test at home or at a test site on NHS.UK.

After the end of July, you can direct your employees to pharmacy collect and online ordering to continue accessing rapid lateral flow tests. As we continue returning to normal, twice-weekly testing remains key and we recommend people continue to test.

For more information, please click here.

NHS Test and Trace in the workplace

From 19 July, businesses are encouraged to continue displaying QR codes for customers wishing to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app, or to continue collecting customer contact details to support NHS Test and Trace, however this will no longer be a legal requirement.

Display NHS QR code posters at your business to support contact tracing.

Find out what this means for your business here.

Employer testing duties

To help protect the country from coronavirus, there are testing regimes in place for those who travel regularly across UK borders. If you are an employer that meets the following criteria, then you must take reasonable steps to facilitate the taking of tests by your employees:

  • you employ more than 50 employees, of which some or all are required to take workforce tests, including agency workers you are responsible for
  • your employees are required to complete testing after international travel

As an employer your ‘reasonable steps’ to facilitate the taking of tests might include:

  • establishing workplace coronavirus (COVID-19) testing or providing your employee with home testing
  • supporting access and signposting employees to testing outside of the workplace

Find out more here.

Working safely during COVID-19

It’s critical that employers take steps to keep workers and visitors safe. By following the working safely guidance and keeping your workplace clean, you can reduce the risk of co-workers having to self-isolate if a member of staff tests positive for COVID-19, or is identified as having had close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Employers can now plan a return to workplaces, which should entail a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19.

It is an offence for you (as an employer) to allow a worker to attend the workplace if you are aware that the worker has either:

  • tested positive for COVID-19
  • been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and received a notification to self-isolate from NHS Test and Trace

In certain limited circumstances fully vaccinated employees identified as contacts may be able to leave self-isolation to undertake critical work. Further detail can be found here.

New We Offer Testing to our Staff (WOTTOS): endorsement scheme

The new scheme for businesses offering workplace testing for staff through NHS Test and Trace has been launched across the UK. It will show customers, employees and the wider public the businesses that are going the extra mile to keep their staff and the public safe.

Businesses that offer rapid workplace testing to staff, either through on-site testing or workplace test collection, will be able to download posters and stickers to demonstrate their offer for free, regular testing to their employees keeping people safe. All organisations that registered before 12 April and self-declared their involvement are eligible for the scheme.

Participating firms will be able to access digital assets including stickers and posters from 11 May, and can be accessed by participating firms online via the online ordering platform. Go to the government website to find out more.

Surge testing communications support pack

This pack is designed to support organisations in communicating with their workforce about a targeted case finding interventions within their settings, following the initial notification of a Variant of Concern cases in their area.

This pack provides internal communications and HR leads with:

  • Detailed background on the approaches taken both nationally and locally to suppress the spread of variants of concern;
  • Examples of communications content for workplaces to cascade through their internal communications channels;
  • Key messages to include in internal communications

Click here to download the pack.

Financial support for reopening

Ahead of reopening, business owners should check the financial support on offer from their local council or government. Schemes such as the Job Retention Scheme and Recovery Loans are available for businesses to take advantage of in order to open back up successfully.

For the very latest financial support on offer, visit our financial support for businesses page.

To speak to one of our expert advisors about what help is available, call us on 03330 00 00 39.