Some insurers are considering encouraging employees to wear face masks even after the legal obligation to do is removed.
Earlier this week, prime minister Boris Johnson said that while a final decision on lifting remaining Covid precautions on 19 July in England will be delivered next week, his plan would mean would include removing the legal obligation on wearing a face covering.
So Health & Protection threw the question over to insurers up and down the country to find out about their mask policies ahead of 19 July.
Encouraging employees to wear a mask
Kim McClatchie, head of HR at William Russell, told Health & Protection its employees’ wellbeing and safety was the biggest priority and it would be encouraging mask wearing and other precautions.
“We want to do everything to support our teams in achieving the business results while meeting the personal needs of the individual,” she said.
“Understanding the views of the whole workforce – cultural sensitivities, different backgrounds and varying circumstances is important to ensure the business is considering the issue as broadly as possible when making decisions.
“So we are preparing to encourage all employees to continue wearing face masks, however, it will not be a legal requirement from July 19 anymore.
“We still want to adhere to social distancing rules in the office, and be cautious about potential exposure to the virus. This way, we believe, we will be able to get back to normal sooner.”
Vitality is following a similar tact. A spokesperson for the insurer said: “We will encourage all employees to wear face masks when they’re at the office until all adults have been offered both vaccinations, because we believe this is in everyone’s best interests.”
Policy review and employee consulatation
But some insurers are keeping a watchful eye out for government’s final plans ahead of making a decision on their approach to mask wearing.
A spokesperson for Zurich said: “Currently, the vast majority of our employees are still working from home though those in our offices have to wear masks in communal spaces.
“Once the government confirms its final plans around the lifting of restrictions, we will be reviewing our own arrangements to ensure we have the right level of caution in place, as well as reviewing this on an ongoing basis.”
Canada Life revealed its incident management team is meeting this week to discuss the government’s update on the rules and guidelines, including face mask wearing.
“As of today, we expect colleagues to wear face masks in the office at all times when moving around the building, only removing when seated at desks,” a Canada Life spokesperson told Health & Protection.
“It’s worth noting we have been cautious and considered to date to ensure that we do the right thing by our people. But as part of our approach we are now looking at all our current precautions and deciding where the Canada Life line is on masks, distancing, self-isolation and other precautions.
“We’re conscious there is a whole spectrum of views and emotions among our colleagues and we want to ensure we give people confidence.
“We’re also doing a colleague check-in shortly so that will help us gauge feelings too.”
For Holloway Friendly employee consultation with staff is key to its decision making on the subject, according to a spokesperson for the mutual.
“We are assessing things and also consulting with our colleagues about their concerns and what approach they would prefer,” the mutual said.
“We also are keeping a close eye on local infection rates as they are rising in Gloucester and Gloucestershire as a whole.”
Meanwhile a spokesperson for Legal & General said its staff’s comfort and safety is the insurer’s top priority.
“The wearing of masks is part of a bigger picture about our future workplace and work practices.
“We will be studying emerging guidance and talking to our people about how our approach should best evolve.”
Location, location, location
However, much rests on office location, as a spokesperson for Aviva pointed out.
“We will continue to follow government guidance on the use of face masks. They are therefore currently optional in our English offices, and remain mandatory in our Scottish offices,” the insurer said.
Kevin Brown, savings and communications specialist at Scottish Friendly, added: “Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic Scottish Friendly has followed all relevant government guidance, to ensure our colleagues, our customers, and the wider community can interact safely and securely.
“The Scottish Government has stated that it expects all of Scotland to move to Covid-19 protection level 0 on Monday 19th July. Under level 0, face coverings will remain compulsory, and this includes offices.
“As our office is in Glasgow, our policy will not change and colleagues who come into the office, will continue to wear face coverings when entering, leaving and moving around the office.”
Broker LifeSearch acknowledged that Covid is not going away so it will “continue to maintain sensible protocols” in its offices, but did not say what those protocols would be.
Andrew Parker, head of people and culture said: “We’ve encouraged our people to follow the rules throughout the pandemic.
“As these rules may change on the 19 July, our people I’m sure will shape their own view on how they respond based on personal risk factors, their vaccination status and the circumstances they find themselves in day to day.