Covid employer guidance updates | February 2022

New guidance on learning to live with COVID announced for England

On 21 February the government announced its new  "Living with COVID-19" strategy seeking to manage the risks of COVID-19 while learning to live with the virus. As of 24 February, all domestic COVID-19 related legal restrictions are removed in England.


The legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test ends as of 24 February.

People who test positive are still advised to isolate and there will be specific guidance for staff in particularly vulnerable services, such as adult social care, healthcare, prisons, and places of detention.

Contact tracing

As of 24 February, routine contact tracing ends and there will no longer be a requirement to self-isolate or advice for daily testing.


As of 1 April, free lateral flow COVID-19 testing ends for the general public in England. Tests will be available to the general public for purchase.

Free tests will be available for symptomatic people in a small number of at-risk groups and social care staff.

Support payments

As of 24 February, self-isolation support payments and national funding for practical support end, and the medicine delivery service will no longer be available. People who were instructed to self-isolate before 24 February can still claim support payments within the next 42 days.

From 24 March, the COVID-19 provisions within Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance regulations will end. People with COVID-19 may still be eligible, subject to the normal conditions of entitlement.

The government's new "Living with COVID-19" strategy will have a big impact on employers and staff alike. Anxieties about returning to the office, the needs of the clinically vulnerable, hybrid working, and health and safety obligations will require careful handling as employers negotiate the tricky territory post-pandemic in the shadow of "The Great Resignation" where UK employees are quitting their jobs at a rate not seen in over a decade.

Revocation of mandatory vaccination for workers in health and social care

On 31 January 2022, the government announced that it is reconsidering the requirement for social care and patient-facing NHS workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. This is because this requirement to be vaccinated is no longer proportionate due to the apparent declining severity the Omicron variant poses, coupled with widespread natural immunity. The current aim is to revoke the Regulations coming into force on 1 April via parliamentary approval. There was a short consultation period and the existing Phase 1 and 2 Guidance on Vaccination as a Condition of Deployment ("VCOD") has been paused.

The consultation outcome on 1 March 2022 has proposed a new way forward upon review of clinical evidence and suggests that, although vaccination is still the best form of defence against the virus and those working in health and social care settings have a professional duty to be vaccinated, it is no longer proportionate to require vaccination as a condition of deployment through statute in health, care homes or other social care settings. The government has offered this operational guidance and is proceeding with revocation. The regulations revoking vaccination as a condition of deployment in all health and social care settings are expected to come into force on 15 March 2022 to offer certainty for employers, staff, patients, and those who receive care or support ahead of 1 April when regulations to extend the requirements were due to come into force.

Separate NHS guidance in respect to VCOD and how to address potential issues in light of the government revocation can be found here (please note this was issued prior to the consultation outcome) and some points of use are outlined below:

For the requirement for first vaccination or evidence of medical exemption by 3 February:

Employers are asked not to serve notice of dismissal to staff that will not be able to be fully vaccinated by 1 April as per the Regulations. The Secretary of State confirmed in Parliament that the deadline of 3 February would not be enforced. Therefore, whilst it is encouraged that employers continue to meet with unvaccinated staff that are in-scope of the Regulations, these meetings should be about providing encouragement and support for vaccine uptake.

For staff already served a notice of dismissal citing their refusal to take the vaccine:

It is advised that employers meet with such individuals to advise them of the Government’s intention to revoke the Regulations and to reach mutual agreement to withdraw the notice of dismissal with immediate effect.

For staff that have resigned over the VCOD Regulations:

It is advised that employers contact individuals who may have resigned due to the requirement to be fully vaccinated to discuss the Government’s new approach to revoking the Regulations. This should be done as soon as practicable.

If the individual is still within their notice period, discussions can take place about whether they would like to continue or withdraw their resignation. Managers should follow this with a formal letter to the individual confirming the conversation and agreed next steps.

If the individual’s notice period has expired and they wish to return to their former role, the employer may choose to provide the individual with reasonable support with respect to the recruitment and selection process and extend an offer to re-engage them to their former role and on the same terms and conditions of employment. The employer will need to be able to demonstrate consistency in their approach to ensure that a fair and equitable process has been given to all applicable workers.