Following the Prime Minister’s 21 December announcement that no new restrictions will be put in place before Christmas Day, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that guidance on self-isolation has been updated with immediate effect.
What are the new rules?
From 22 December 2021, those who are currently self-isolating due to a positive lateral flow test for Covid-19 and who are double vaccinated can reduce their self-isolation period by three days, providing they can show two negative lateral flow tests on the sixth and seventh day of self-isolation and that the individual no longer has symptoms.
The reduce self-isolation from the current 10 days to 7 days is based on the 2 negative lateral flow tests although the guidance does say that if you are still showing symptoms that you must remain in self-isolation for the full 10 days or longer if the symptoms (temperature) are still present.
However, this guidance does state that if you are not double vaccinated and have a positive Covid-19 result and you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, you must still self-isolate for the full 10 days.
It is also suggested that for those individuals who can end their self-isolation after the seventh day, it is still strongly advised to keep practicing social distancing, to not to attend crowded spaces and to limit contact with anyone who may be vulnerable as well as wearing a face covering where required as well as working from home where possible.
Why have the rules changed?
With the Omicron variant sweeping through the UK many businesses and especially emergency services are struggling with a large number of medical staff currently in self-isolation in connection with Covid-19. There is a concern that the already exhausted health service being unable to cope with an influx of Covid-19 patients at this time of year. This comes as the UK reported a further 90,000 Covid-19 on 21 December 2021.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has also raised concerns over Omicron’s hasty spread causing further strain on the emergency services. The UKHSA has said that the decision has come from updated medical advice which they will release in due course.
What does this change mean for employers?
For employers this means that your employees who are double vaccinated and who do two negative lateral flows can now return to work from day 8.
You may want to ask your employee for evidence of the two negative lateral flow tests this could be in the form of pictures of the tests.
If an employer wants to enforce longer self-isolation than the guidance this may result in the need to pay full pay for this period so you should seek advice if you are not sure how this impacts our business or a particular employee.
For further information about this matter and how it may affect your business, please contact the Employment Law Team.
Head of Employment
Trainee Legal Executive