England moves to Plan B due to rapid spread of the Omicron variant
Employees should work from home if they can
The Prime Minister has confirmed that from Monday 13 December people should work from home if they can, as England moves to its Plan B for dealing with Covid-19. The announcement comes amid concerns that we could see a doubling of cases of the Omicron variant every two and half to three days, leading to pressure on the NHS.
Work from home guidance
The work from home message is guidance only, not a legal requirement. The guidance says that those who can work from home should do so. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go into work. This includes those who need to go to the office, for example, to access equipment necessary for their role or where their role needs to be done in person. The guidance also says that employers should consider whether home working is appropriate for workers facing mental or physical health difficulties, or those with a particularly challenging home working environment.
Where people need to continue to go into work, they should consider taking lateral flow tests regularly to manage their own risk and the risk to others. In addition, the Government has said it will update the Working Safely Guidance shortly on how employers can reduce the risks in their workplace. Businesses that remain open should consider this guidance when preparing their health and safety risk assessments, and put in place suitable mitigations.
Other Plan B measures
Other measures being introduced as part of Plan B include:
- Changes to the law on face coverings. From 10 December 2021, face coverings will have to be worn in most public indoor venues, such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship unless people are exempt. There will be exceptions in venues where it is not practical to wear a face covering, such as when people are eating, drinking or exercising. Face coverings will not be required in hospitality settings. Face coverings were already required on public transport and in retail settings
- Mandatory Covid-status certification for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather, including unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees. To attend these events people will have to be able to demonstrate that they are double vaccinated using the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS App. Proof of a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted. Regulations making these will come into force on 15 December
- Advice to take a lateral flow test before entering a high-risk setting involving people they wouldn’t normally come into contact with, or when visiting a vulnerable person
- From 14 December, fully vaccinated contacts of a positive Omicron case will no longer be required to self-isolate. Instead they are advised to do daily lateral flow tests for seven days. Those who are not fully vaccinated who are contacts of a positive Covid case are still required to self-isolate for ten days
How long will these measures last?
The Government has said that it will keep the data under review. The regulations will expire six weeks after implementation, with a review after three weeks. It has not indicated how long the work from home guidance will be in place for but presumably it will be reviewed at the same time. If you need advice on any employment issue visit our employment service page for more information.
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