How the new covid rules will affect your business wherever you are in the UK

  • 22 Feb 2022

All Covid restrictions will end in England on Thursday February 24 and free mass testing will stop from 1 April.

The prime minister said the legal duty to isolate for those who tested positive would be dropped in England, as he unveiled his "living with Covid" plan.

 

From 1 April the provision of free testing will be targeted to the most vulnerable.

The rules in England now mean that:

  • people with Covid will no longer be legally required to self-isolate
  • guidance will remain in place for those who test positive to stay at home and avoid contact with others for at least five full days
  • self-isolation support payments of £500 for those on low incomes will no longer be available
  • routine contact tracing will end - people in contact with someone with Covid will no longer be advised to self-isolate or take daily tests
  • workers will no longer be required to tell their employer if they need to self-isolate

And from April 1, employers will no longer have to consider Covid as a separate risk when working out how to keep employees safe, while Covid tests will no longer be free for most people.

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Mike Cherry said: “Small firms right across England will be hoping that this week definitively marks the end of chopping and changing restrictions that have blighted them over the past two years.

“Lockdowns have proved devastating for our small businesses. The priority now must be containing the virus and protecting community wellbeing whilst avoiding the need to shut down the economy entirely. 

“The need for business support with regards to the pandemic will not disappear when restrictions do; containing this virus is clearly still a priority. Small firms should not be out of pocket when they support staff who are unwell. That’s why we’re urging the Government to expand and make permanent the existing statutory sick pay rebate for small businesses.

 

“Government should also be assessing the effectiveness of its existing Covid business support schemes ensuring that, if needed in the future, they are sufficient, widespread and quickly distributed.

“Our economic recovery is still fragile. Firms now find themselves bracing for an April flashpoint when a regressive jobs tax hike is set to take effect alongside a grab on dividend income, fresh business rates bills, a rise in the living wage and the end of residual Covid support measures such as a lower rate of VAT for hospitality. While scrapping the increase in NICs would be a huge relief, increasing the Employment Allowance by a quarter, to £5,000, would go some way to offset the worst of the pain for small employers.

“Before then we’ll have the Chancellor’s Spring Statement. Our recovery will hinge on it being a pro-business one.”

Meanwhile, in Scotland legal Covid-19 restrictions, including the wearing of face coverings, will end on 21 March.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said people would still be advised to wear masks in shops and on public transport. The country's vaccine passport scheme will end on 28 February.

And those who test positive for the virus will continue to be asked to isolate for the recommended period.

At present anyone who tests positive, regardless of vaccination status, must self-isolate for 10 days.

But since 6 January new cases have been advised they can end self-isolation if they don’t have a fever and test negative on a Lateral Flow Device (LFD) on day six and, again, at least 24 hours later.

 

Andrew McRae, the FSB in Scotland’s policy chair, said: “The lifting of the remaining covid rules will be a weight off the shoulders of Scotland’s small business community.

“While the First Minister outlined her government’s continued caution, she also spelled out a desire to return to a more normal way of life. That ambition to get back to business is something that Scotland’s local and independent firms share.

“However, the hard work to get local economies moving needs to start now. Ministers need to inject confidence as well as roll-out vaccines.

“With a new economic strategy in the pipeline, we’d urge Ministers to ensure that the local firms and self-employed people that gave up so much are at the centre of their plans. And local authorities and the Scottish Government must work together to ensure that cash aimed at recovery reaches the real economy.

In Wales Covid passes for entertainment venues, nightclubs and large events are no longer needed.

And from 28 February, pupils will not have to wear face masks in class and the law requiring face coverings in most public places will be relaxed.

However, they will still be needed in shops, public transport, hairdressers, salons and health and social care.

But they will not be needed in places of worship, cinemas and museums.

All other face covering rules could be lifted by the end of March if conditions continue to improve, according to the Welsh government.

 

Self-isolation rules remain, but will be reviewed on 3 March.

People who test positive for Covid must still isolate for a minimum of five full days, with two negative lateral flow tests required on day five and six in order for them to come out of isolation.

Since 10 February, Wales has returned to a three-week review cycle as the country is at alert level zero.

In Northern Ireland, Covid rules that were legally binding have, from last week, been down graded to guidance only.

It means that while people are encouraged to follow restrictions, they will not face any punishment for not doing so.

However, individual businesses are still able to ask customers to follow certain rules.

Issues that were previously covered by guidance - such as the advice to work from home where possible - have not changed either, because the changes only affect legal restrictions.

Hospitality and entertainment venues will still be strongly encouraged to use so-called Covid passports, and the certificates will still be available for anyone who needs them to travel abroad.

Social distancing is also still encouraged as well as meeting outdoors or in well-ventilated places were possible.

The requirement for offices to take reasonable measures for 2m (6ft) social distancing had already been removed, but soon risk assessments will no longer be required.

 

People are still advised to work from home where possible but Health Minister Robin Swann has made it clear he wants the guidance to be urgently reviewed.

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