Monday, 19 July was a significant day in the Covid-19 journey, with the majority of restrictions lifted within England. The two metre rule abolished, capacity restrictions removed, the government’s instruction to work from home reversed. Many had been anticipating this easing of restrictions, expecting it to be straightforward for businesses and individuals: we just go back to how things were before, right? Well, things aren’t quite that simple. As although many rules vanished, Covid-19 remains, creating further legal considerations for employees and employers alike.
Testing and vaccinations
Much like with mask wearing, an employer can implement LFT for its staff as part of its own safety measures. If a business makes these mandatory, then the business must provide workplace testing or support with testing outside the workplace. It must also ensure employees who receive national minimum wage are paid if they’re taking the test outside of normal working hours, otherwise it could be argued they haven’t been paid for working time. Any employee declining to get tested could face disciplinary action as it could be perceived as a refusal of a reasonable request of an employer.
As the vaccination roll out continues to bring hope and success in the fight against the virus, businesses may be tempted to implement a vaccination requirement. However, there’s no specific legislation which allows an employer to require an employee to undergo medical treatment of any kind, including vaccination. Only in very limited circumstances could this be seen as a reasonable request, such as when an employee’s role involves high levels of interaction with the vulnerable, like a healthcare professional. In general, a requirement to be vaccinated could be discriminatory.
Similarly, businesses checking employees’ Covid vaccination status should only do so in limited circumstances. People’s private health information is special category data, and this information must not result in any unfair or unjustified treatment of employees. The industry in which the business operates, and the work employees do will help determine the reasonableness of checking employees’ Covid status. If by the nature of their job employees are more likely to encounter infected people or could pose a risk to clinically vulnerable individuals, this could be justified. But remember, United Kingdom General Data Protection Regulation will always apply if recording the data.
 Face coverings - Transport for London (tfl.gov.uk)
 Sainsbury's and Tesco to encourage mask-wearing from Monday - BBC News
 Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
 Coronavirus (COVID-19): employer testing duty - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
[7-8] Vaccination and COVID status checks | ICO