Coronavirus update – 9th December 2021

9 Dec 21 by Nina Robinson
Coronavirus update

The Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that England will move to Plan B, following news that the Covid-19 Omicron variant is rapidly spreading.

The main points (subject to Parliamentary approval) for customers to be aware of are:

  • From Friday 10 December – Face masks are to become compulsory in most public indoor venues (including cinemas, theatres and places of worship), other than hospitality;
  • From Monday 13 December – People are again asked to work from home, if they can;
  • From Wednesday 15 December – The NHS Covid Pass will be mandatory in specific settings such as nightclubs and indoor venues where large crowds gather.

Employers will therefore need to consider, yet again, the potential for staff to work from home. This is not a strict requirement as yet, but the guidance is clear that where it is possible to work from home this should be done.

Last week, the government changed the rules in England so that all contacts of suspected Omicron cases have to self-isolate for 10 days, even if they are fully vaccinated. It may therefore be in the interests of employers to protect key office-based workers by limiting their potential physical contact with others, who don’t have a need to be present in the office during work hours, so as to minimise the risk of them having to self-isolate should they come into contact with a person who tests positive for the Omicron variant.

Employers in the hospitality sector will also need to be braced for disruption and possible cancellations, although currently there remains no guidance to cancel festive parties or gatherings. Many will also need to use the next week to train staff and set up systems and processes in relation to checking for Covid Pass eligibility on entrance to their venues or events.

In relation to festive events, these may still go ahead as planned. However, employers should make it clear to attendees that the gatherings are not compulsory and should encourage staff to take lateral flow tests (LFTs) in advance. Other precautions such as social distancing and use of masks should also be advised. If the venue is one which will be impacted by the new rules on Covid Passes then staff should be informed well in advance of this fact to allow them opportunity to make appropriate arrangements. Given the self-isolation rules with the new Omicron variant, employers may also want to consider having several smaller gatherings rather than a single large get-together so if a person tests positive following an event, their close contacts at work are limited and business operations are not unduly hindered.

 


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Post by Nina Robinson

Director, ESP Law Ltd

Nina is an accomplished employment solicitor with over 15 years’ post-qualified experience at leading UK law firms. Nina initially qualified as a corporate solicitor at Addleshaw Goddard in 2005 and since 2006 practised employment law exclusively, providing advice to employer customers at both DAC Beachcroft and Ward Hadaway Solicitors. Nina has experience of advising a varied portfolio of employer customers, including retail and restaurant groups, financial services and media industry customers on all employment issues.