Covid: Plan B and what it means for your workforce

Advice  |   9 December 2021

Written by
Lisa Rothon, Associate Solicitor

Yesterday’s Government announcement confirmed that England will be moving to “Plan B” in a bid to tackle the rising number of Covid-19 cases, which will see the reintroduction of restrictions across the country.

New rules and restrictions will be introduced with effect from Friday 9 December through to Wednesday 15 December, and include:

  • Face Coverings - Expanding the requirement to wear face coverings beyond public transport, banks, post offices, hairdressers and in shops to include hospitality venues such as cinemas, theatres, and places of worship from Friday 9 December.
  • Covid passports – With effect from Wednesday 15 December, Covid passports in the form of proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test will be required to enter some indoor venues, to include nightclubs and events with more than 500 attendees, and outdoor venues, including settings with more than 4,000 people.
  • Working from home – From Monday 13 December, people should work from home if they can.

Working from home

Whilst some employers have continued to operate working from home policies introduced at the start of the pandemic, others have more recently moved towards the use of hybrid working arrangements which require staff to spend some of their working time back in the office. The Government’s latest announcement will, however, now require businesses to reverse on that position and allow employees to work from home where they can, and employers should communicate any change in their approach in writing.

Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their workers whether they are in the workplace, on site or working from home and employers should ensure that they support their staff with working from home full-time. Employers should remind staff of their working from home policy and any other applicable policies in relation to IT, Confidential Information, and Flexible working etc.

Working from home is not, however, for everybody and there may be some employees who enjoy the structure of the working day in the office, which may provide relief from loneliness, addiction, old trauma, or an underlying mental health problem. Employers should be alert to the effect the reintroduction of working from home may have on its staff and talk to people on an individual basis if they have concerns. Employers should also remind staff of the services they can access for support, such as an Employee Assistance Programme and Occupational Health, and share advice from other organisations such as Mind.

Keeping workers safe

Where employers have staff members who cannot work from home, they must follow official safety guidance and carry out a Covid-19 risk assessment for those staff who are in work premises. Employers should consider what measures can be taken to keep the workplace safe, which could include:

  1. Ensuring that all staff follow the rules regarding face coverings (in line with latest advice).
  2. Providing adequate ventilation to spaces where people are present.
  3. Cleaning more often – for example surfaces that are being touched a lot.
  4. Using one-way systems.
  5. Social distancing.
  6. Using screens and barriers to separate people from each other.
  7. Using back-to-back or side-to-side working.
  8. Turning away people with Covid-19 symptoms.
  9. Communicating and training workers and visitors on up-to-date safety measures.

Communication is key

Communication with staff is key. Keeping people informed of what your business is doing will give them some degree of security in very uncertain times. Knowing they are valued and supported by their employer, and that their employer continues to prioritise their health and safety, will be pivotal to their wellbeing.

If your business requires any advice or assistance with managing people back to working from home, ensuring that you are meeting your legal obligations to staff, or with preparing a Working from Home policy, please do not hesitate to contact the Employment Team on 020 8290 0440.

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