Covid employer guidance updates | July 2021

Final stage of Roadmap goes ahead from 19 July 2021

The full easing of lockdown restrictions in England went ahead from 19 July 2021, marking a new phase of "continued caution".

In case you missed it, Karen Bates, Head of Employment, Nathan Peacey, Head of Risk, and Employment Partner, James Collings recorded a webinar on the key questions for businesses to consider ahead of 'Freedom Day'. You can watch it here. Further, Nathan Peacey, Catherine Owlett and Tim Williamson have recently set out a useful summary of the recent changes to COVID-19 restrictions compared with those that were in place prior to 19 July 2021. You can read it here.

Some key points which have come from the Government about 'Freedom Day' are:

  • whilst the 'Work from Home' guidance no longer applies, they expect and recommend that employers implement a gradual return of their workforce over the summer;
  • all businesses should continue to follow the principles set out in the working safely guidance. The Government has also highlighted the need for employers to carry out health and safety risk assessments, including the risk of COVID-19 and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the risks identified; and
  • businesses in higher risk settings have been recommended to use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry for customers and visitors. The government position on using the pass for staff is currently unclear.

Ultimately, the risk of workforce absence due to positive COVID-19 tests and the requirements to self-isolate remains and employers should be mindful of this when planning a return to the office.  

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Employer contributions from 1 July 2021

From 1 July, the amount employers can claim under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ("CJRS") changed. A summary of the Government and Employer contributions under the CJRS is below: 

Claim month




Government contribution

70% up to £2,187.50

60% up to £1,875

60% up to £1,875

Employer contribution

10% up to £312.50

20% up to £625

20% up to £625

To be eligible for the grant, employers must continue to pay their furloughed employees at least 80% of their wages for the time they are on furlough.

Employers cannot claim for employer National Insurance and pension contributions under the CJRS, but the employer must still pay these.

Updated guidance for office working in England

New "Working safely" guidance has been published by the Government in response to 'Step 4' of the roadmap, where legal restrictions have been lifted and all businesses are able to open again. With the removal of the instruction to work from home (for those who can) the guidance offers support to businesses through this next phase and suggests precautions that employers can take to manage risk and support staff and customers. Six of the main considerations are outlined below:

  1. Complete a health and safety risk assessment
  2. Ventilation
  3. Clean more often
  4. Preventing office outbreaks by turning people away with COVID-19 symptoms
  5. Provision of check-in facilities by displaying an NHS QR code poster
  6. Communication and training

Employers should be mindful of updating workplace risk assessments on an ongoing basis as the situation develops over the coming months. It is worth noting that free worksite lateral flow testing ended on 19 July, but individuals can still access NHS tests at home or at a test site. Employers can also consider providing tests privately. Even with the relaxation of restrictions, employers still have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of their staff which will likely mean many of the measures already in place to ensure the workplace is "COVID secure" will remain for the foreseeable future.

COVID vaccine for care home staff in England will be mandatory from 11 November 2021

Regulations mandating the COVID-19 vaccinations for care home workers have now been approved by both Houses of Parliament and will come into effect from 11 November 2021. This leaves a certain "grace period" to allow care workers to get vaccinated, with 16 September 2021 being the last date for care workers to get their first vaccine so that they have sufficient time to have their second dose before the regulations come into force.

The government has predicted that around 7% of care home staff in England will refuse to have the vaccine meaning that around 40,000 staff will not be able to work in care homes from 11 November 2021.

The Government has now published operational guidance on this which can be viewed here.

Isolation exemption for fully vaccinated individuals from 16 August 2021

The Government has announced that it is intends to create an exemption for fully vaccinated individuals and under 18's from the requirement to self-isolate if they come into close contact with a positive case. Instead, individuals will be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible. This may assist employers who intend to bring their workforce back to the office full time, to mitigate the risk of mass workforce absence and the disruption associated with that.

Self-isolation enforcement and support is set to continue until at least the end of September 2021. Those who test positive or come into close contact with a positive case, may be eligible for a £500 Test and Trace Support payment if they are unable to work from home.

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