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Advice for Members

Last Updated:  13 August 2021

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.

England has now moved to step 4. This means almost all legal restrictions to manage Covid-19 have been removed. However, employers must by law protect workers and others from risks to their health and safety. This includes risks from Covid-19.

Going to Work 
The Government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can and would expect and recommend a gradual return over the summer.

We recognise that the majority of Union members have continued to attend the workplace throughout the pandemic and the Union would expect the safety measures already in place to be maintained. Please speak to your Rep or Union Official if you have any concerns about health and safety in your workplace.

Working Safely Guidance 
Despite the lifting of legal restrictions, the Government have 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.
Social Distancing
While there is no longer a legal requirement to socially distance, the Union still expects employers to maintain social distancing measures, 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 only a few others).
  • Screens or barriers to separate people from each other, or using back-to-back or side-to-side working, instead of face-to-face (screens are only likely to be beneficial if placed between people who will come into close proximity with each other).

Face Coverings
The legal requirement for staff and customers to wear face coverings has now ended. However, the Government still “expects and recommends that people (workers or customers) continue to wear a face covering in crowded, enclosed spaces”.

In light of this, Usdaw would expect employers to encourage, for example through signage, the use of face coverings where they have previously been legally required, such as retail stores. However, if customers are going to be challenged over not wearing a mask, we would expect this to be covered by trained security staff. If you have any concerns on this front, please speak to your Rep or Union Official 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 avoiding people who are unvaccinated, meeting outdoors 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.

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 and concerned about any risks in their workplaces should speak with their Union Rep or Official.
Individuals are still required to self-isolate when testing positive or when contacted by NHS Test and Trace. This means employers must continue to follow all public health guidance on self-isolation. It’s illegal to knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work. This remains the law, regardless of your vaccination status.

From 16 August, if you have been fully vaccinated you will be exempt from the requirement to self-isolate if you are a contact of a positive case. You will instead be advised to take a PCR test as soon as possible.

You will also be exempt from self-isolation from 16 August if you are under 18 and a contact of a positive case. As with adults, you will be advised whether a PCR test needs to be taken. If you are 18 years old you will be treated in the same way as under 18 year olds until 4 months after your 18th birthday, to allow you the opportunity to get fully vaccinated.

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.
Job Retention Scheme (JRS)
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) will end on 30 September 2021. From 1 July 2021, the level of grant was reduced and employers were asked to contribute towards the cost of furloughed employees’ wages. For more details on how the scheme changed please click here.

Members concerned about job security or redundancy ahead of the end of the JRS should contact their Rep or Union Official for further advice.
Childcare and Schools
With some rules around self-isolation remaining in place, most working parents still 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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