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COVID – it is up to us now

In the UK it seems likely that all COVID restrictions and requirements for testing by the government will be ended within a month. This includes the legal requirement to self-isolate if you have symptoms.

From that time, it will be up to individuals and organisations to decide for themselves what precautions, if any, they will take in an environment where there are still significant numbers of cases – over 60,000 were reported yesterday, a level that would horrify most other countries in the world.

It’s clear that at some point we need to move from responding to a pandemic in crisis mode, to managing within what will be an endemic disease for the years to come, like the flu.

Emboldened by falling hospitalizations and death rates, and no doubt encouraged by internal Conservative party politics, the UK may be moving more quickly than some are comfortable with, but it won’t be the last country to navigate this part of what is hopefully the COVID endgame.

Speaking as a CEO this means the responsibility will soon switch to me and my team. Over the last two years the virus and the government have largely decided whether we will go into the office and what precautions we will take. Now we will have to make choices for ourselves, which sounds great, but we will also have to be liable for those choices, which is a bit more of a minefield.

We know that there are divisions within society about vaccination, mask wearing and other perceived restrictions on liberty, and I expect a few people will militantly celebrate their right to take no further precautions. Others who work in the same location will be much more anxious about the return to normality. I hope each group will respect the others perspective and needs, but I’ve seen scant evidence of this in society as a whole so far.

As an employer I have a duty of care to my people and my customers and to provide a safe system of work. In the UK there are criminal sanctions for health and safety violations, so I could go to jail if I get it wrong.

If a customer or colleague is infected by one of my employees who deliberately comes to work even though they had symptoms, I may be liable.

If I have someone from a vulnerable group or who is unable to be vaccinated, I still need to ensure that the system of work around them is safe, this may require asking others to continue to take tests, use masks or to maintain social distancing.

Given the situation I will consult with my people, and we will do what we think is right. This will not mean that everyone has personal freedom to do whatever they want, we will need to find the balance that works for all of us.

We are a relatively small organisation and have kept this conversation going throughout the pandemic, so I don’t anticipate any major problems. However, I think navigating this complexity is going to be a nightmare for large organisations.

How are you going to respond?

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