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Working safely with covid-19

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Covid-19 and other respiratory conditions can cause serious illness. Use this page to understand what you can do to manage the risk in your workplace.

Keeping your workplace safe

Actions you can take to help keep your workplace safe include:

  • supporting staff to get the covid-19 vaccine – you may want to have a vaccine policy
  • making sure there's adequate ventilation in enclosed areas
  • following the relevant government guidance on hygiene and cleaning the workplace
  • considering a workplace policy for face coverings – there's no legal requirement to wear a face mask or covering.

For more information, read GOV.UK's guidance on living safely with respiratory infections including covid-19.

If an employer or volunteer tests positive or has covid-19 symptoms

Self-isolating is no longer a legal requirement. If a staff member or volunteer tests positive for covid-19 or has covid-19 symptoms in the workplace, they should tell their manager or volunteer coordinator and follow:

Managing the risk in your workplace

The Health and Safety Executive no longer expects every business, including charities, to consider covid-19 in their risk assessment or to have specific measures in place. You can choose whether to include covid-19 in your risk assessments. 

You must comply with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 for welfare facilities. You must also make sure there's adequate ventilation in enclosed areas of their workplace.

There's still a legal requirement to protect those that encounter the virus due to their work activity:

  • directly through their work, for example in researching the virus in laboratories
  • due to their work activity, such as health and social care workers caring for infectious patients.

In these cases, you must do a risk assessment and implement control measures.

Supporting vulnerable staff and volunteers

There's no longer a requirement to shield or identify people as clinically extremely vulnerable. But there remains a smaller number of people whose immune system means they're at higher risk of serious illness from covid-19, despite vaccination. They'll usually be under the care of a clinical specialist.

To minimise risk, you should ensure that those who are more vulnerable:

  • are encouraged and supported to have all doses of the vaccine they're eligible to receive
  • follow any condition-specific advice given by their clinical specialist
  • work from home if they can. If they cannot work from home, discuss what arrangements can be made in the workplace to reduce risk.

For more information, read GOV.UK's guidance for people whose immune system means they are at higher risk.

Some people who have had covid-19 may go on to experience symptoms that last for weeks or months after the infection has gone. This is known as long covid.  Symptoms can include, fatigue, problems with memory or concentration and dizziness. For more information read the NHS's guidance on the long-term effects of covid-19.

Make sure your staff and volunteers are clear about your sickness policy and be prepared to consider making appropriate adjustments to roles for people affected by long covid.

NCVO members can access our guide to developing your own sickness absence policy.

Testing for covid-19

There's no law in England that requires staff or volunteers to be tested for covid-19 and testing is no longer free for most people.

Those who work in the NHS or adult social care may still be eligible for free tests. The NHS website provides more information about groups that are eligible for free testing.

If, as an employer working within the NHS or adult social care, you decide you want to require staff in particular roles to regularly test for covid-19, you should first talk with your staff or with a recognised trade union or other employee representatives.

You should agree:

  • how the expense of testing will be covered (if you're requiring employees to be tested, any cost should be covered by the employer)
  • how testing will be carried out
  • how staff will get their results
  • the process to follow if someone tests positive for covid-19
  • about pay if someone is advised to self-isolate but can't work from home
  • how someone’s absence would be recorded if they need to take time off work
  • the legitimate reason for requiring employees to be tested – for example, if this has been identified as a necessary health and safety measure because of the nature of your workplace
  • how testing data would be used, stored and deleted in line with data protection law (UK, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)). Under GDPR, collecting health data is classed as ‘special category’ data due to its sensitivity. Your use of the data needs to be fair, relevant and necessary for a specific purpose. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) outlines what is considered a lawful basis for processing personal data.

Organisations that require their staff or volunteers to get tested but are not eligible for free tests can buy covid-19 tests from some pharmacies and retailers in person or online.

Getting vaccinated

Vaccines are the best defence against covid-19. They provide good protection against hospitalisation and death. Vaccines also reduce the risk of long tern symptoms. The NHS website includes information about the vaccines available and when to have them.

There's currently no law in England, Scotland or Wales that says people must have the vaccine. There may be some people who are advised not to have the vaccine, for example for health reasons.

You should encourage and support staff and volunteers to:

  • have a full course of covid-19 vaccinations as soon as possible
  • get a booster vaccine if they're offered one.

Acas has guidance for employers on getting the covid-19 vaccine for work.

Last reviewed: 27 July 2022

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This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 27 July 2022

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