On the 19th July the UK government ended the majority of the remaining COVID pandemic restrictions in England, the day has been commonly referred to as ‘Freedom Day’. This day saw most of the rules placed upon businesses across the country removed and instead made voluntary, putting the responsibility onto businesses and individuals. But what restrictions have been removed, and what does it mean for businesses?
It is important to note that in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, many of these restrictions are still in place, so these relaxations apply only to England:
There will no longer be any limits on how many people can meet
Social distancing is no longer required, except in some places like hospitals and border control
Masks and face coverings are no longer a legal requirement
Night clubs can reopen
Restaurants and pubs are no longer required to only offer table service
No limits on visitors to concerts, theatres or indoor events, including business conferences
Fully vaccinated adults in the UK will no longer have to quarantine for 10 days after returning from nations on the amber list (the previous rules still apply if you are returning from France)
Under-18s won’t need to quarantine
Double-vaccinated adults do not need to self-isolate after 16 August if they simply come in contact with someone who later tests positive (if they test positive themselves then they must self-isolate).
The 19th July is also the day that the Prime Minister announced that working from home is no longer mandatory, but Boris Johnson has strongly recommended that businesses action a gradual return to the workplace where possible. This could mean keeping some of the workforce working from home for the time being or putting together a rota for employees whereby they work a certain percentage of their hours from home, and the rest in the office.
Most importantly, businesses must consider the health and wellbeing of their employees. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all their employees at work.
This could mean encouraging employees to continue to wear a mask in communal areas and corridors, or any other area that is either poorly ventilated or crowded. Providing the supplies needed to keep a good level of hygiene is also vital.
Of course, the pandemic has stirred a lot of emotions and opinions in us all and we all think differently. Employers may face challenges from staff and customers alike over changes to policy and they should prepare themselves to meet those challenges.