Coronavirus – Employment update January 2022

11-01-2022


In response to the recent rise of Coronavirus cases of the Omicron variant, the government in England returned to ‘Plan B’ in mid-December 2021.  The government made the decision to move from Plan A to Plan B mainly due to the likeliness of the NHS being overwhelmed.

The current Government guidance can be found here: Coronavirus: how to stay safe and help prevent the spread – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The main action points of plan B are:

But what does this mean in terms of employment?

As noted above, the Government’s guidance has once again changed to advise office workers and anyone else who can, to work from home if possible. Therefore businesses are again required to assess which employees can work on this basis and facilitate this where possible, reminding employees of the legal obligation to self-isloate.

Despite the pressing need to be responsible and set good work practices in terms of minimising the spread of COVID-19, it is also important to consider employees potential mental or physical health issues, which may be exacerbated from working from home. Many businesses and workplaces, including Slaughter and May and PwC have systems which allow their employees to, at times, continue working from the office (Subject to safety precautions, such as daily lateral flow testing and rotas which restrict the amount of staff in the office) in order to help manage the toll the continued remote working is taking on some employees mental health.

Yet again the guidance is open to interpretation and employers will need to balance a number of factors when considering their policy, while also upholding their legal obligation to take ‘reasonable care’ of the health and safety of their employees and adhering to the latest guidance where possible.

There are 6 government recommended steps that employers can take to keep their staff and customers safe during COVID-19:

  1. Completing a health and safety risk assessment – specifically considering the risk from COVID-19.
  2. Providing adequate ventilation.
  3. Cleaning more frequently.
  4. Turning away people with COVID-19 symptoms – consistent with government guidelines, work places should also ensure workers with symptoms self-isolate and book a PCR test as soon as they are able.
  5. Enable people to ‘check in’ at your venue if possible.
  6. Communicate and provide training

The Government’s website page on ‘Working safely during coronavirus’ Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) provides specific advice to different employments sectors, including advice to: Construction and other outdoor work; Offices, factories and labs; Restaurants, pubs, bars nightclubs and takeaway services; Shops, branches and close contract service and Hotel and guest accommodation etc.

COVID-19 timeline update

Please be aware that the guidance from the English government is significantly different to the rules operating in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

More information on the current COVID-19 guidance for employment can be found on: Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19) – Guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

If you need any help understanding the obligations or the implications of these changes for your business, please contact our employment team who will be pleased to assist you: [email protected]


Chloe Ilsley

Assistant
Employment Law

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