Workplace testing (UK-Covid)

Some employers and third-party healthcare providers may want to introduce their own internal testing programmes outside of NHS Test and Trace.

NHS Test and Trace is for those who display symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been advised to take a test by a medical practitioner or public service. Employer and third-party healthcare providers wishing to provide a test to staff must not advise individuals without symptoms to get a test from the limited supply offered by the NHS Test and Trace service, but may offer alternative private provision.

The government first published guidance on 10 Sept 2020.

The guidance was updated several times since, and on 26 Feb 2021 was updated –

Updated to reflect the ongoing evolution of private-sector testing. In particular, updated advice in relation to lateral flow device (LFD) testing, routes to access testing, and a more comprehensive supplementary annex for employers and third-party providers wishing to offer workplace testing for asymptomatic employees.

The guidance is here.

Note CE marking is replaced by UKCA marking. Information on UKCA marking is here.

Existing CE marked goods may continue to circulate on the GB market in 2021 under transitional arrangements.

CE marked goods may circulate in Northern Ireland under the Protocol, UKCA goods must be marked UKNI in the Northern Ireland market (see the UKCA marking link).

Counting GB divergence from EU law (Britain)

To date (end Feb 2021) divergence (this is not a definitive list) :

(1) international waste shipment – divergent waste transshipment law – EU bans plastics to non-OECD, Britain has enhanced pre-notification

(2) lead shot in fishing/hunting – EU Reach ban in/around wetlands from Feb 2023 (no announcement in Britain)

(3) carcinogen OELs – EU has further 2021 OELs (EH40 unchanged thus far)

(4) medicines licensing – Britain has ILAP launched 1st Jan – further information is here

(5) safety data sheets – EU has new Reach Annex II, one year grace (UK Reach unchanged so far)

There are other minor divergences

Additionally, and off topic, GB will not implement the latest proposed update to the EU motor insurance directive.

EU REACH lead shot ban (EU)

25 Jan 2021 amendment to EU REACH – here – bans lead shot in or around wetlands. The amendment is made to EU REACH Annex XVII (the marketing and use restrictions).

From 15 February 2023, a list of activities involving use of lead shot in or within 100 metres of wetlands is banned.

“wetlands” means areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or
artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed 6 metres.

Reaction to this ban is here.

In addition, ECHA (the European Chemicals Agency) has published its proposals for further restrictions on the use of lead in ammunition for hunting, outdoor sports shooting and fishing.

The ECHA proposals are described and found here.

UK relations with EU (UK)

The UK government has brought back Lord (David) Frost, its EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) negotiator, to lead UK relations with the EU as a Cabinet Minister (scrutinised by Lords select committee). He will be the UK lead (co-chair with the EU) of the two key committees (replacing Michael Gove CDL) –

(1) The Joint Committee of the 2020 EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement (WA) – a key workload is the IRL/NI Protocol functioning

(2) The Partnership Council set up under the 2020 TCA

These two images depict the TCA work ongoing. The various committees and sub-committees of the Partnership Council are not yet announced.

UK BAT Consultation (UK)

From 1st Jan 2021, EU BATC (best available techniques conclusions) documents will not be applicable in the UK (except in Northern Ireland under the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement).

The UK is now consulting on developing its own approach to the creation of UK BAT documents. Here (and online – here). The deadline is 18 April 2021.

A new governance structure is proposed to enable BAT a’ Best Available Techniques’ to be developed within the UK. This would be formed of a new Standards Council, made up of representatives from the UK Government and Devolved Administrations, a new Regulators Group that will provide technical advice to the Standards Council, and Technical Working Groups for each new ‘Best Available Techniques’ under consideration.

The Council would coordinate a rolling programme for review of ‘Best Available Techniques’ within the UK. The programme will be informed by the time since the industry sector last had a ‘Best Available Techniques’ review as well as technical insight on new and emerging techniques and ‘Best Available Techniques’ development in other regimes around the world. This includes considering when general guidance on ‘Best Available Techniques’ developed for new processes or for unique installations would benefit from being considered through the new system. The decision on the future timetable will be based on technical advice provided by the Regulators Group, and instigation of ‘Best Available Techniques’ development can be proposed by any Council member. It is proposed that ‘Best Available Techniques’ currently under review by the EU, where UK industry and experts have already been involved, should be considered by the UK process, once established.

The Regulators Group will support the Council and provide oversight of the work of the sector specific Technical Working Groups. It will develop and regularly review the technical principles that underpin ‘Best Available Techniques’ within the UK, apply those principles when reviewing each sector ‘Best Available Techniques’ and will make recommendations to the Council on ‘Best Available Techniques’. The Regulators Group membership would comprise of representatives from the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency as well as the Offshore Petroleum Regulator for Environment and Decommissioning (OPRED) (for offshore oil and gas installations).

Further detail is set out in the consultation document.

New Animal Health Law (EU)

From 21st April 2021, the EU will operate a new single, comprehensive regulatory framework for animal health, replacing a miscellany of complex law. The instrument (amended in 2017) is here. It’s a 2016 dated EU Regulation 2016/429, and applies to terrestrial and aquatic animals, animal products, and pets. It does not directly deal with animal welfare.

Q&A on the EU Animal Health Law is here.

The EU Animal Health Law sets out requirements for:

• disease prevention and preparation (e.g. biosecurity measures) for eventual outbreaks, such as the use of diagnostic tools, vaccination and medical treatments;

• the identification and registration of animals and the certification and tracing of their consignments, as well as those of certain animal products (e.g. semen, ova, embryos);

• the entry of animals and animal products into the EU and movement within;

• disease control and eradication, including emergency measures such as restrictions on the movement of animals, killing and vaccination.

The EU’s Animal Health Law is supplemented in the following aspects:

• the approval of germinal product establishments and the traceability and animal health requirements for movements within the EU of germinal products of certain kept terrestrial animals;

• prevention and control of certain diseases;

• animal health requirements for the movements within the EU of terrestrial animals and hatching eggs;

• surveillance, eradication and disease free status for certain diseases;

• rules for aquaculture establishments and transporters of aquatic animals;

• rules for entry into the EU, and the movement and handling after entry of consignments of certain animals, germinal products and products of animal origin; and

• rules for establishments keeping terrestrial animals and hatcheries, and the traceability of certain kept terrestrial animals and hatching eggs;

• diseases subject to union surveillance programmes, its geographical scope and diseases for which disease-free status of compartments may be established.

A series of delegated Regulations and an implementing Regulation supplement the EU Animal Health Law.

Safety Data Sheets (SDS) (EU)

Safety data sheets are regulated in the EU (and the EEA) via article 31 and Annex II of EU REACH.

In 2020, an amendment was made to EU REACH, that changed the safety data sheet requirements and the SDS format, effective 1st Jan 2021.

The instrument that does this is here. The SDS guidance was re-issued here.

Safety data sheets not complying with this 2020 change may continue to be provided until 31 December 2022.

The new EU SDS will apply to all goods circulating in the EU and in Northern Ireland.

[this change is not incorporated in UK REACH]

Drivers’ Hours (UK)

EU drivers’ hours and tachograph rules still apply to journeys between the EU and UK, or wholly within the EU or UK.

AETR (the European Agreement Concerning the Work of Crews of Vehicles Engaged in International Road Transport) apply to journeys outside of the EU, including journeys involving Norway and Switzerland.

3 sets of rules could apply to a road journey:

* EU rules – here

A person must not drive more than:

• 9 hours in a day – this can be extended to 10 hours twice a week

• 56 hours in a week

• 90 hours in any 2 consecutive weeks

All driving carried out under EU rules must be recorded on a tachograph. And there are EU rules on breaks and rest.

* AETR rules – here

AETR rules are the same as the EU rules.

* GB domestic rules – here

GB domestic rules are not completely the same as EU rules (that was the case also before the UK exited the EU) and apply to most goods vehicles that don’t need to follow EU rules. GB rules apply in Britain. Separate domestic rules apply in Northern Ireland – here.

The rules that apply depend on:

• the type of vehicle being driven

• which country the vehicle is being driving in

If driving under the EU or GB domestic drivers’ hours rules, a person also needs to follow the working time rules – here.

The employer of drivers or mobile workers must also follow additional rules – here.

The collection of guidance links on Drivers’ Hours is here. Note the temporary relaxations for Covid.

Trade Agreement with Norway and Iceland (UK)

The EU, Norway and Iceland are members of the EEA (European Economic Area) which has its own Agreement in force since 1994. This Agreement means Norway and Iceland adopt EU Law in the areas of Environment and Health and Safety.

The UK signed a trade in goods agreement with Norway (and Iceland) in Dec 2020.

The UK trade in goods agreement includes provisions on:

• trade in goods – including provisions on preferential tariffs, tariff rate quotas, rules of origin and customs and trade facilitation

• geographical indications with Iceland

Information on changes to trade with Norway and Iceland that apply from 1 January 2021 is here. This link also includes access to the trade in goods agreement itself.

As in the UK-EU FTA, there is no equivalence on standards, goods sold into the Norwegian and Iceland markets must the regulatory requirements as set out in EU Law implemented in Norway and Iceland via the EEA Agreement, and be labelled correctly.

From 1 January 2021, regulations for industrial and agricultural products might not be aligned across the UK, Iceland and Norway. This is also the case with regulations across the UK and the EU. But the EU-UK FTA does not cover Norway and Iceland, and so variation may occur not just as respects the EU, but also Norway and Iceland.

From 1 January 2021, the UK will continue to treat most imports from Iceland and Norway no less favourably than imports from the European Union, for a time limited period. This includes requirements for product testing.

Iceland and Norway will also continue to replicate the EU’s treatment of industrial products from the UK. This includes requirements for product testing.

For rules of origin (which are tripping up GB goods movement to the EU and Northern Ireland), please check with BEIS. But simply re-packaging or re-labeling a product from the EU and exporting it to Norway or Iceland as a good originating in the UK is not permitted. Also, check with BEIS re the customs processes for an EU good dispatched to Norway or Iceland from a GB distribution centre.