Changes from 19 July
What will change from 19 July for us? To be truthful, not much. We want to continue to keep our staff and residents safe as there are still many unknowns around rates rising and the effects of long-covid, even with the vaccination roll out.
We’re still working from home
While employers have now been given the green light to get staff back into the workplace gradually over the summer, you will know that our Sevenoaks office is temporarily closed. This means our staggered return to our new ways of working is unaffected by the new guidelines.
Face coverings, social distancing and other precautions
While face coverings will no longer be required by law, the government still expects people to continue to wear them in enclosed spaces. We will still be asking staff to wear a face covering while moving around our offices and communal areas in schemes, and appropriate PPE when visiting residents’ homes.
The government is also recommending that contact with other workers is reduced where possible, so we will be maintaining our guidance on social distancing within our workplaces, and have extra hygiene precautions in place (such as easily accessible hand-sanitiser and antibacterial desk wipes).
We will also be ensuring our workplaces have lots of ventilation; windows will be open and air-con will keep fresh air flowing.
From our focus groups around returning to our offices, we know many of our staff are feeling uneasy about mixing with colleagues again. As people begin to mix a bit more, we will still encourage all staff to do a lateral flow test twice a week, even if they are symptom free.
If they do test positive, we then have processes in place to inform the relevant business areas, and if needed will start our cascade to individuals they may have been in close contact with, as well as the usual NHS Test and Trace system.
What we do if staff are told to isolate by NHS Test and Trace
We encourage all staff to use the NHS Test and Trace app as a safety measure if they are out and about. This app will send an alert if they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive, and it will let them know how long they will need to isolate.
We encourage all staff to get vaccinated, and will support them to do this by allowing appointments in working hours.
There are still some decisions to be made
Government guidelines state that from 16 August people who have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days will not have to self-isolate if they come into contact with a positive Covid case. However, we will be reviewing our West Kent guidelines for what all staff (fully vaccinated or not) should do if they come into contact with a positive case as we get closer to the change date.
While we would love to be able to welcome staff back to our offices in September with open arms, guidelines out the window, and face masks well and truly binned, we hope they feel comforted that we are putting precautions in place to ensure a safe environment for everyone. With weekly changes in the news around infection rates, and many unknowns around the coming months, we want to continue to look after our staff, residents, and the public that we are in contact with, the best we can. We will continue to work with our staff to do our best to make this happen, while being mindful of all government guidance and continually review our approach.