UK is lifting many COVID-19 restrictions. Should we be doing the same?


According to the Associated Press (here) and the BBC (here), Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the end of COVID-19 “Plan B.”

England will no longer require face masks in public places or COVID-19 passports for large events. The government is also no longer advising people to work from home anymore. The reason for relaxing these restrictions is that COVID-19 infections are leveling off.

Now, here in the States, there are no federal laws governing face masks and remote work, and we don’t have federally mandated COVID-19 passports either. Most of our guidance comes from the CDC.

However, based largely on CDC guidance and area conditions, cities and states are the ones imposing restrictions. For example, the City of Philadelphia set rules last year requiring masking indoors and, this year, you need proof of vaccination to dine out.

But COVID-19 cases in Philly and South Jersey have declined since the holidays. Does this mean that states and cities, like Philadelphia, are ready to relax their mandates too?

Not yet.

The Philadelphia Inquirer quotes Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner as saying, “We are still in the thick of it. Things are better, but we’re a long way from safe right now.” Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy warns residents that “we cannot look at a falling number and fall into complacency. Omicron inundated us once. We do not wish to see that happen again, and it can if we let our guards down.”

But if your business operates in a city or state without government-imposed COVID-19 rules, how do you plan to address COVID-19 safety as we advance?

I doubt that anyone would suggest having sick employees report to work. (England will still require self-isolation for at least five days for anyone who tests positive.) But we’re two-plus years into the pandemic, perhaps employers are less inclined to require other measures like vaccinations/boosters, masks, social distancing, testing, and the like as a condition of employment.

Does running a successful business mean recommending prophylactic COVID-19 measures and then trusting the judgment of our employees?

As an employment lawyer, I have some thoughts on this. So, let’s put on the list of topics to discuss at Noon ET on Friday at The Employer Handbook Zoom Happy Hour (register here).


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