How can employers handle anxiety over the lifting of Covid restrictions?

The lifting of Covid restrictions on 19th July is likely to cause anxiety among many workers. Kate Palmer from Peninsula UK explains what employers can do to ease those worries.

Older female seller business owner wearing face mask scanning parcel box.


Older workers, particularly those with underlying health issues, may be anxious about the lifting of restrictions after 19th July. Here HR expert Kate Palmer from Peninsula UK gives some advice on what employers can do to tackle that anxiety.

Can employers still require employees to wear masks in the workplace once it is no longer a legal requirement?

Kate Palmer: Employers can choose to continue to require their staff to wear facemasks if they have a reason for it; it simply becomes another workplace rule to implement. It would be advisable to have a policy covering the wearing of facemasks, or to amend an existing policy to reflect the fact that the context has changed, so that employees know where they stand.

Employers should be sure that they are up to speed with the details of any change; there’s a chance that Boris Johnson may not apply a simple blanket rule and some workplaces may still be under guidance to continue wearing them. Some employees will not yet be fully vaccinated; employers should consider the safety of these employees as well as those who are vulnerable or extremely vulnerable.

What issues could potentially arise if employees do/don’t want to continue wearing them?

KP: Employees are likely to have got used to wearing masks in their workplace and may not, therefore, be resistant to having to continue wearing them even though the Government recommendation to do so no longer exists. Those who are exempt from wearing them will see no change.

Employers who wish to keep their own rule in place should have a good reason to do so and make sure this is explained to employees. Resistance should be dealt with on an individual basis, taking into consideration the specific position of the employee involved.

How do employers address employees’ concerns about safety in the workplace, following the 19th July?

KP: Businesses are free to carry on with social distancing and other measures – such as the wearing of masks – if they choose to, and should consider their position carefully, balancing business needs with employee safety. Whatever their decision, they should be able to clearly explain how this decision has been reached, showing that they are keeping the safety of their staff at the forefront of their minds.

Employees who are concerned about the removal of restrictions should speak to their employer and employers may seek to continue with, or make further, adjustments for those who have reasonable concerns.

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