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Advice for Members

Last Updated:   20 January 2022

This page is related to current guidance in England. Please visit our pages on ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland for further information about the guidance that applies there.

Please note that the guidance from Usdaw should be used alongside public health information and official Government guidance.

From 26 January, restrictions introduced in December as a response to the Omicron variant will end. The legal requirement to self-isolate if testing positive for Covid will remain. Employers must still continue, by law, to protect workers and others from risks to their health and safety. This includes risks from Covid-19.

Going to Work 
The Government has ended the instruction to work from home.

We recognise that the majority of Usdaw members have continued to attend work throughout the pandemic. Usdaw is clear that the pandemic is not over and we expect employers to be looking at what safety measures need to be maintained to protect workers. Please speak to your Rep or Union Official if you have any concerns about health and safety in your workplace.

Working Safely Guidance 
The Government has clarified that all businesses should follow the principles set out in the working safely guidance. While there is distinct guidance for different types of workplaces, such as shops, there is some common guidance and information that should be applied across all Usdaw workplace settings.
Removal of requirement for confirmatory PCR tests

From 11 January, people who are not displaying any symptoms of Covid and who have a positive lateral flow test result will be required to self-isolate immediately and won’t be required to take a confirmatory PCR test. The result should also be reported on GOV.UK. The individual will still be contacted by NHS Test and Trace so that their contacts can be traced and must continue to self-isolate. This is a temporary approach whilst COVID infections remain high and therefore a positive lateral flow result will most likely be accurate. (Unless you have been advised to take a PCR test because you are in a clinically vulnerable group who may need early access to treatment).

Government advice remains that lateral flow tests are taken by people who do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone who develops 1 of the 3 main COVID-19 symptoms should stay at home and self-isolate and take a PCR test. They must self-isolate if they get a positive test result, even if they have had a recent negative lateral flow test.

Social Distancing
Social distancing requirements have now been removed across England. However Usdaw is calling on employers to continue to promote such measures in stores, such as physical distancing markers/screens at tills and counters.

The guidance states that businesses must still mitigate the risk by reducing the number of people workers come into contact with. Measures to help reduce contact between people, “particularly between customers and workers” should be considered, such as:

  • Reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’ (so each person works with the same consistent group).
  • Where space and capacity allow, giving preference to back-to-back or side-to-side working between cohorts or fixed teams who don’t normally mix.
  • Using screens or barriers to separate people who don’t normally mix (for example between workers and customers), noting that screens are only likely to be beneficial if placed between people who come into close face-to-face proximity with each other, and may not be practicable between desks in a side-to-side office setting.

Face Coverings
From 27 January, it is no longer a requirement to wear face coverings. The Government have advised face coverings should be worn in communal and/or crowded spaces, however this is not mandatory. Usdaw is urging the shopping public to wear face coverings, along with necessary hand sanitisation and maintaining social distancing to help make shops safer and protect shopworkers.
Booster Jabs
Usdaw has been working with employers throughout the vaccine rollout to support members in getting vaccinated. We continue to negotiate with employers to ensure they provide appropriate support to ensure people can attend vaccination appointments. The Union is encouraging eligible members to get their booster jabs as soon as possible.  
Advice for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable 
If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you are no longer advised to shield. However, you should continue to follow the guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and are advised to take additional precautions to protect yourself. This includes practical steps such as considering whether you and those you are meeting have been vaccinated, consider continuing to practice social distancing and asking family and friends to take lateral flow tests. As such employers should think carefully about additional precautions they could take to protect clinically extremely vulnerable people at work.

Those who are severely immunocompromised have been advised to get a further vaccination jab three months after their primary course of three vaccinations.

Members who are clinically extremely vulnerable and concerned about any risks in their workplaces should speak with their Union Rep or Official.
Pregnant Employees
Employers have particular responsibilities towards workers who are new mothers or pregnant women. Members who are pregnant must first have a workplace risk assessment and if there are risks that cannot be removed and alternative work cannot be found, members must be suspended on paid leave. If pregnant women or new mothers are concerned about any risks in their workplaces should speak with their Union Rep or Official.
From 16 January, individuals who have tested positive for Covid can self-isolate for five full days from the date of the positive test result, provided they return two negative lateral flow tests taken on days five and six. Self-isolation can end on the start of day six so long as a second negative LFT result is produced. If a positive result is still shown on these days, isolation will continue until the tenth day when no test its required.

For individuals who are fully vaccinated or are under the age of 18 and 6 months, if they share a household with someone who has tested positive for Covid, they do not have to self-isolate provided they take a lateral flow test every day for seven days, and that the result comes back negative.

For fully vaccinated people or those under the age of 18 and six months, if they are a close contact of someone who has tested positive, they are not required to self-isolate but are strongly encouraged to take lateral flow tests for at least seven days.

Anyone who is over the age of 18 and 6 months, who is not fully vaccinated, is required to self-isolate if they live with or have been a close contact of someone who has tested positive.
Further information for households with a possible or confirmed case of Covid is available here. For people who have been a close contact of someone who has tested positive and they do not live with, guidance is available here.

If you have any concerns regarding how the guidance on self-isolation is being applied in your workplace, please speak to your Rep or Union Official.
Other Mitigations
The Government guidance outlines several other mitigations that could help to manage the risk in workplaces of Covid-19. Usdaw would expect employers to put these mitigations in place including the following measures:
  • Cleaning surfaces that people touch regularly.
  • Advising customers and workers to wash their hands or use hand sanitiser frequently.
  • Identifying poorly-ventilated areas in the venue (such as changing rooms in retail stores) and taking steps to improve air flow. Employers should make sure there is a supply of fresh air to indoor spaces where there are people present. This can be natural ventilation through opening windows, doors and vents, mechanical ventilation using fans and ducts, or a combination of both. Further advice on air conditioning and ventilation is available on the HSE website.
  • Ensuring that staff and customers who are unwell do not attend the workplace or venue.
  • Communicating to staff and customers the measures that the employer has put in place. This includes sharing risk assessments with the workforce and consultation with the Union and workers.
If you have been vaccinated against COVID-19 
Even if members have been vaccinated you should still continue to follow public health guidance.

Government guidance stresses that while the vaccine may reduce the likelihood of severe illness in most people “we do not know yet if they stop Covid-19 from spreading”. This means that even if you have been vaccinated, you could still spread the virus to others and still become unwell.
Meeting others for work
There are no longer limits on the number of people you can meet for work (or socially). However, employers must by law protect workers and others from risks to their health and safety, which includes risks from Covid-19. Therefore employers are expected to conduct risk assessments and put in place measures to reduce contact between people, particularly between customers and workers.
Childcare and Schools
With increasing rules around self-isolation many working parents may face the challenge of balancing work and childcare. If you need to keep your child at home in line with public health advice to self-isolate, this may affect your ability to attend work due to the need to provide childcare. In these circumstances working parents have the following options:
  • Talk to your manager – in many companies the Union has agreed how working parents will be supported during the pandemic. This could mean changing the hours, days or times of day you work. It might mean using annual leave if you have leave available. Some companies are offering unpaid leave although the Union is clear that this is not a realistic option for many low paid families. We will continue to push both employers and the Government to financially support working parents during this time.
  • Talk to your Usdaw Rep or full time official – the Union has been working hard to encourage employers to support parents and while many are doing this some of our members are not getting the support they need. If you require support in discussions with your employer on this, please contact your in-store Usdaw Rep, or call your local Usdaw office.

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