Businesses will need to consider whether to take any action following the recent changes announced by the Government in relation to tackling the Omicron variant. Possible actions include:
- in certain sectors, especially retail, notifying staff of the new requirements in relation to face coverings
- updating the company's Covid risk assessment in light of recent developments. For example, should staff be encouraged to wear face coverings in the communal areas of offices? Should additional precautions be taken to try to protect more vulnerable staff members, such as reducing in person meetings?
- deciding whether to cancel or postpone large social events in the run up to Christmas
- considering whether to relax requirements for staff to work in the office for some or all of the time. Staff in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are being advised to work from home where possible, whereas the guidance hasn't changed in England. Downing Street has instead said that it is a decision for employers as to whether to require staff to attend the office and, if so, how often
- updating policies on self-isolation, given close contacts of people who have tested positive with the Omicron variant must self-isolate for 10 days, even if they are fully vaccinated
- considering how to encourage staff to have their booster vaccinations now that boosters have been extended to everyone aged 18 or over, such as paid time off work for the appointment and sick pay if individuals need time off due to vaccine side effects
- considering if any mandatory vaccine policy needs to be updated in due course to include boosters
- revisiting plans for business travel given increasing restrictions and border closures around the world and the requirement to self isolate until receiving a negative PCR Covid test when entering the UK
- considering if holiday policies need to be updated, given staff will need more time off to self-isolate upon their return to the UK due to the requirement to self-isolate until receiving a negative PCR test result.
Although there are no doubt many uncertainties in the weeks ahead, one thing which is certain is that businesses and HR will need to be ready to react quickly to a fast changing situation, especially in the run up to Christmas.
England only UK nation not to encourage working from home