Keep a lid on it - reducing respiratory infections in the workplace

The UK government has published new guidance on reducing the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19, in the workplace. It replaces the earlier working safely during coronavirus guidance, applies to England and is much less prescriptive for employers.


The government has published new guidance for employers on how to reduce the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19, in the workplace. This replaces the earlier working safely during coronavirus guidance and reflects the fact that now that free, widespread COVID-19 testing has ended, it will be more difficult to know if a worker has COVID-19 or another respiratory illness.

Key points

The key points for employers in England include:

  • There is no obligation to report workplace outbreaks of respiratory illness to local public health teams;
  • There is no longer a requirement specifically to consider COVID-19 in health and safety risk assessments in most cases, although employers may choose to continue to do so and must (obviously) continue to comply with legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment and equality;
  • Although it is no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate, individuals who have symptoms of respiratory illness, such as a high temperature, should try to remain at home and avoid contact with others until their symptoms have disappeared and should work from home during that period if they can; 
  • Employers should consider how best to support staff and enable them to follow the guidance for individuals with a respiratory illness; and
  • To reduce the risk of respiratory infections spreading in the workplace, employers should continue to take steps such as encouraging staff to be vaccinated, ensuring workplaces are well ventilated and maintaining adequate cleaning regimes.

Employers will also need to consider how to protect staff who have compromised immune systems and who are of greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19 as a result. This is a smaller group than those who were identified as being clinically extremely vulnerable and broadly reflects under-75s who will be invited for a spring booster vaccination. 

Guidance for that group indicates that they may want to work from home “if it feels right for you” and that if this is not possible, they should speak to their employer about what arrangements can be made to reduce risk in the workplace. If an individual is disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act, employers will be under a duty to make reasonable adjustments if an individual would otherwise be at a substantial disadvantage. 



Authored by Jo Broadbent and Stefan Martin.

Ed Bowyer
Stefan Martin


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