As you may know, the easing of restrictions in England has led to thousands of people being notified by the NHS test and trace app to self-isolate for 10 days. This has had adverse effects on a client’s business due to staff shortages. The client would like to know what their options are for dealing with this issue.

Managing an unexpected period of self-isolation can be gruelling but your client may be able to get around this by allowing staff, even though government guidance in England has changed, to work from home during this period if possible. Another option is to consider hiring temporary workers or asking the remaining workforce to split their colleagues’ workload between them. They may also wish to consider whether their staff are eligible to be exempt from self-isolation under the Government’s new rules.

The new rules highlight that “…a limited number of named workers may be able to leave self-isolation under specific controls for the purpose of undertaking critical work only.”

This process is only intended to run until 16 August 2021, when fully vaccinated close contacts will be exempt from self-isolation. Where your client believes the self-isolation of certain key employees would result in serious disruption to critical services, they should contact the relevant government department.

The sectors to which the new rules apply are:

  • energy
  • civil nuclear
  • digital infrastructure
  • food production and supply
  • waste
  • water
  • veterinary medicines
  • essential chemicals
  • essential transport
  • medicines
  • medical devices
  • clinical consumable supplies
  • emergency services
  • border control
  • essential defence outputs; and
  • local government.

In some exceptional cases, there may be critical roles in sectors not listed above which meet the criteria. These will be agreed on a case-by-case basis. Where your client thinks this applies, they should contact the government department with responsibility for their sector.

The Government makes it clear that this policy applies to named workers in specifically approved workplaces who are fully vaccinated (defined as someone who is 14 days post-final dose) and who have been identified as close contacts.

Permission to attend work is, it emphasises, contingent on following certain controls, agreed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), to mitigate the risk of increased infection.

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