The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced that the Government will revert to ‘Plan B’ in response to the rise in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant. This plan introduces updated guidelines, and includes new restrictions for both businesses and individuals.
There has been some confusion around the interpretation of the ‘Plan B’ regulations, but what do the announced changes mean for your business?
The guidance is ‘If you can work from home then please do so’ effective from Monday 13 December 2021. Please note this is guidance, and not a matter of law right at present.
If you believe that your workforce is better placed to come into your physical office/premises, they still can at present. Also, employers can ask their employees to work from their premises if deemed necessary for the business. Please consider making this request carefully; if your staff can work from home then allow this to happen, check in regularly and keep a monitor on motivation, productivity etc. However, if this arrangement is not suitable for your business, make sure to communicate why clearly to your employees. A lot of businesses have been adopting the hybrid way of working, or asking that people work 2-3 days in their office/premises, and this level of flexibility can still be offered if suitable. Our advice is to be fair and consistent.
Here are the points to note in terms of considering your business and your employees during this period:
- Communicate clearly to everyone so that they are aware of your process/policy and procedures.
- Check how people are getting to work, they may not want to use public transport and so please consider the implications here and consider what support you can offer. Stagger start and finish times to avoid staff travelling in peak times.
- Consider team A and B rotations, as per last year’s advice to ensure you have enough room within your environment. Think about mask wearing in the environment; it would be safest to consider a supply of paper masks so that staff wear new masks as they enter the premises, which can be disposed of when they leave. This means they are not wearing the mask they wore coming into work. All should use hand sanitiser etc, adapt cleaning of desk/equipment at the start and end of each shift; keep own pens and stationery; no sharing of equipment such as keyboards, phones etc. HANDS/FACE/SPACE – keep the guidance front of mind for your teams so that they know the rules (and your procedure/process). Keep air circulating – windows open if possible and keep your deep cleaning regime in place.
- If a team member has symptoms they should be tested and remain out of the working environment while they await the result. If positive, instructions to stay at home should be adhered to until the period of isolation is over. If someone in their household is positive for Covid -19 there are exceptions to isolation – those double vaccinated, below the age of 18 years of age and those not able to get the vaccination due to medical reasons, do not have to isolate. However, if Omicron is suspected this group should isolate, no matter what their status. If they can work from home, allow them to do so. If they cannot work from home, refer them to your sickness policy (for many this is SSP).
- The Government has not requested that businesses cancel or change any parties at the moment, but please do understand if people do not want to attend a party. If you are gathering at an event, you may be asked to prove your vaccination status or show a negative lateral flow test and you have an obligation to see this through if this is your own event (this depends on numbers attending and venue).
The Government are promoting vaccination, and individuals who are eligible to get their booster now should ideally do so. However, this is still not mandated and so is still a personal individual choice. However, employers are being asked to ‘encourage’ in terms of vaccination.
Mask wearing will be law again in most indoor spaces (shops, cinema, theatres etc) from Friday 10th December 2021, and legal requirement of mask wearing includes those using public transport.
These measures are in place to avoid further issues with hospital admission, and to try to control the spread of the virus, especially with regards to the Omicron variant. Hopefully, these measures can also negate the need for any further major restrictions or national lockdowns.
Let us all work together to keep everyone safe!
(Dale. D; HR Consultant at Debbee Dale Development Ltd — expert advice and quoted material used from this source).