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Covid employer guidance updates | November 2021

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By Natalie Painter, Megan Berry

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England implements new travel restrictions

This Government has acted in response to the new COVID-19 variant Omicron.

The Prime Minister announced on 27 November 2021 that everyone arriving into the UK will need to take a PCR test by the end of the second day after their arrival, and self-isolate until they have a negative result. It is anticipated that these rules will come into effect from 4am on 30 November 2021.

As of 4am on Sunday 28 November, ten countries (Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) are on the red list.

People in England should not travel to countries or territories on the red list.

Only British or Irish Nationals or those with residence rights in the UK can enter the UK from a red list country or territory (or having been in a country or territory on the red list in the 10 days before arrival).

Travellers arriving in England from any red list countries must take a COVID-19 test pre departure in the 3 days before they travel. This applies even if they are fully vaccinated. They must book a quarantine hotel package, including 2 COVID-19 tests, before arrival in England.

The Prime Minister announced on 27 November 2021 that the measures would be reviewed in three weeks.

In addition, the list of countries whose vaccines are recognised by the UK was expanded on the 1 and 22 November 2021, to include around 150 countries in total.

Stronger self-isolation rules for Omicron contacts

The Prime Minister announced on 27 November 2021 that the Government will require all close contacts of those who test positive with a suspected case of Omicron to self-isolate for ten days, regardless of vaccination status. Those who are identified as being at risk will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

Mandatory mask wearing in shops and on public transport from 30 November 2021 in England

The Health Secretary has announced that from 30 November 2021 face masks will be mandatory in shops and on public transport in England.  The Prime Minister announced on 27 November 2021 that these new measures, enacted in response to the Omicron variant, would be reviewed in three weeks.

New temporary Department of Education (DfE) guidance on masks

DfE guidance on COVID-19 for FE Colleges, schools, and early years providers was updated on 29 November 2021 to recommend that pupils aged 11 and above, staff and visitors wear face masks in communal areas. The guidance describes the measure as temporary.

HMRC publishes new guidance on making late and amended CJRS claims

The CJRS closed on 30 September 2021 and employers were required to submit claims for September 2021 by 14 October 2021. Any amendments in respect of those claims had to be submitted on or before 28 October 2021.

The new guidance provides that for claim periods from 1 November 2020, HMRC may accept late claims or amendments in certain circumstances. Although the guidance is largely similar to previous guidance it does make some changes:

  • It requires employers to contact HMRC before submitting late or amended claims.
  • It suggests that the same reasonable excuses will apply to amended claims as to late claims.

Employers must take reasonable care to try to claim on time and make a claim as soon as their reasonable excuse no longer applies.

Vaccines will be compulsory for NHS staff in England from April 2022

After the consultation on making the vaccination a condition of deployment in the health and wider social care sector ended on 22 October 2021, it has been announced that from April 2022, Covid-19 vaccines will be mandatory for frontline NHS staff in England. Covid-19 vaccines became mandatory for care home workers on 11 November 2021.

Currently, the NHS has 93% of staff who have had the first dose and 90% who are fully vaccinated leaving around 103,000 NHS workers who remain unvaccinated.

There will be exemptions in place for those who are unable to get vaccinated for medical reasons, and for those who do not have face-to-face contact with patients in their work.

The government will implement the mandatory vaccination required by amending the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/2936).