Isolation Confusion: Which sectors may be exempt from self-isolation rules and what does this mean for employers?

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27 July, 2021

On Thursday 22 July 2021, the Government announced a list of sectors within which it proposed workers will be exempt from self-isolation, even if they are contacted by the NHS Track and Trace app. This exemption only applies to those double vaccinated (14 days after the second dose), who come into contact with a positive case. If a worker tests positive for Covid-19, they must continue to self-isolate for 10 days, as before. The full list of sectors published are as follows:

  1. Border control;
  2. Civil nuclear;
  3. Clinical consumable supplies;
  4. Digital infrastructure;
  5. Emergency services;
  6. Energy;
  7. Essential chemicals;
  8. Essential defence;
  9. Essential transport;
  10. Food production and supply;
  11. Local government;
  12. Medicines;
  13. Medical devices;
  14. Waste;
  15. Water;
  16. Veterinary medicines.

The announcement has prompted a huge influx of complaints received from essential industries, unable to open due to self-isolation requirements. It is understood that a letter from the relevant government department will be sent to the employers of all eligible staff. In return for self-isolation exemption, workers must take a PCR test as soon as possible, followed by daily lateral flow tests. Any worker that has Covid-19 symptoms or develops symptoms, must continue to self-isolate for the full period. Due to the rise of infections, many workers have been forced to self-isolate. This has undoubtedly had a detrimental effect upon essential sectors; some having to close due to a lack of available workers. This intervention has and will continue to be controversial, with retail and hospitality sectors having severely struggled throughout the pandemic.

The government has insisted that this is a short-term measure before the exemptions for fully vaccinated contacts come into force on 16 August. There are concerns that if infections continue to rise, new restrictions may be implemented or proposals to lift restrictions will be postponed.

From an employment perspective, employers within the relevant sectors should await confirmation to see if their staff are exempt from self-isolation protocol and take advice before altering their risk assessments or policies. The relevant precautions and considerations will vary depending upon the nature of the work. Should employers find themselves ineligible, the Government has intimated that they can contact the Home Office for consideration, which will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

For more information contact Joshua Burke in our Employment & HR department via email or phone on 01772 220 155. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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