Last Updated: 30 November 2021
This page is related to current guidance in England. Please visit our pages on Scotland, Wales 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.
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.
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
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.
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 the same consistent group).
- Giving preference to back-to-back or side-to-side working or considering using screens or barriers to separate people from each other, bearing in mind that screens are only likely to be beneficial if placed between people who will come into close face-to-face proximity with each other.
In light of the Omicron variant, the Government has reintroduced the requirement to wear face coverings in retail settings and on public transport. Detailed guidance is yet to be published, however it is expected that previous exemptions will still apply. There is currently no requirement to wear face coverings in hospitality settings.
Usdaw is clear that it is not the responsibility of retail workers to enforce the requirement for customers to wear face coverings. We are calling on retailers to update their signage so that it is clear that customers must wear a face covering. We are also calling on the public to show common sense and wear a face covering unless they are exempt.
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.
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.
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.
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:
If you have been vaccinated against COVID-19
- 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.
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 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.
Travelling to England from outside the UK
- 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.
The Government has now introduced rules for people travelling to England from outside the UK. From 4am on 30 November, anyone entering England will have to pay for, and take, a Covid-19 PCR test as well as completing a passenger locator form. This must be done within 48 hours of arrival and self-isolate at least until they get a result.
For those who are fully vaccinated, once they get the result, they will have to follow the usual guidance for self-isolation.
Those who are not fully vaccinated will have to isolate for 10 days from arrival. If their day 2 PCR test shows positive, they will have to isolate according to the guidance. If their day 2 test shows negative, they will have to pay for and take a further test on day 8. If this test shows negative, their self-isolation will be completed on day 10. If it shows positive they will have to self-isolate according to guidance.
The requirement for additional periods of isolation when entering the England has been implemented with very little warning. If you are concerned about how these changes may impact on you, please speak to your Usdaw rep or local Official.