Easing of COVID restrictions summer 2021 – guidance for reps

19 July 2021

The UK government is planning to remove COVID restrictions and relax the coronavirus guidance that has existed for most workplaces since summer 2020. The lifting of restrictions is moving at a slower pace in the three other nations of the UK.

Branches should engage with employers on the reopening of offices and workplaces. In a number of areas, members have attended workplaces and sites for operational reasons throughout the pandemic, although occupancy rates are likely to increase in the coming weeks and months, and this presents its own challenges.

As we edge forward, it is important that we do not let our guard down. It is imperative that staff and members feel supported by their union and their employer through this time. The purpose of this guidance is to support that endeavour. In terms of key actions:

  • A precautionary approach should be taken.
  • Risk assessments should be reviewed. Read more about COVID risk assessments.
  • Occupancy levels are likely to remain lower than before the pandemic, but the return of staff should still be planned and controlled.
  • Flexible and hybrid working should continue where staff want it.
  • Even though social distancing measures will be withdrawn by the government, it is recommended they are retained in workplaces and be considered as part of any joint risk assessment. Read more about planning for social distancing.
  • Masks and face coverings should continue to be used in public areas of buildings and areas which have poor ventilation or air circulation. Read more about face coverings.
  • Ventilation standards should be reviewed. Read more about ventilation.
  • Screens should be retained, in particular where staff are face to face.
  • Hand sanitisation and effective cleaning should continue.
  • Consideration must be given to supporting and protecting those who are clinically vulnerable and extremely clinically vulnerable.
  • Support should be available from employers for those suffering with long COVID. Read more about what employers should do.
  • Individual risk assessment discussions should take place with those whose health is most at risk due to COVID.
  • Arbitrary targets for physical attendance should be opposed. The wellbeing and safety of staff, alongside operational needs, should inform attendance levels.
  • Any guidance issued alongside the risk assessment should consider how staff travel to work. Consideration should be given as to how best facilitate the safest modes of travel and staff should not feel they are forced onto busy trains, tubes or buses.
  • Staff should have the confidence and support of their employer to remove themselves from potentially hazardous situations, such as crowds and groups of people at work and on public transport. This is often called a dynamic risk assessment.
  • Branches should remind employers that the BEIS COVID guidance and health and safety legislation represents a floor and not a ceiling. Jointly, we should work together to ensure the safety of staff and members.
  • Where employers cover a number of jurisdictions, the strictest guidance should be adhered to.

Additionally, Prospect has supported the provision of voluntary COVID screening and has encouraged uptake of the vaccine.