• Pem Paddick

December Covid Guidelines

Employers in England may be getting a strong feeling of déjà vu after the announcements on 8 December 2021 that bring back some Covid restrictions once again. It was confirmed that the Government’s Plan B, first announced in September as the stricter measures that would be implemented if needed, will be phased in from Friday 10 December 2021. This is as a result of recent data regarding the Omicron variant, which is quickly spreading throughout the UK.

The following changes will be implemented:

From Friday 10 December, masks must be worn in most public venues, including theatres and cinemas, unless someone is medically exempt. This will not apply in premises where people are eating or exercising (such as gyms or nightclubs).

From Monday 13 December, guidance to work from home wherever this is possible will be reintroduced.

By Wednesday 15 December, Covid passes will become mandatory for nightclubs, unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 5000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.

Two doses will be sufficient for a Covid pass, as will a negative lateral flow test but this requirement will be kept under review as the booster programme is rolled out.

Whilst employers are likely to be used to swiftly facilitating homeworking now, each instance still comes with its challenges. Employees who don’t have an adequate environment to work in at home due to lack of space or robust internet connection, for example, may struggle to be productive, and others may fear that their mental health will decline after having experienced a similar impact during previous enforced homeworking periods. Employers will need to spend time dealing with individual circumstances to make it work as best it can, and provide support and assistance to those who need it.

Those who can’t work from home, such as supermarket staff, must be sufficiently protected in work amidst heightened Covid spread and news of new variants that are less effected by current vaccines. Some employers, on the other hand, who were able to embrace homeworking fully and didn’t return their staff to the workplace once it was permitted again, will not feel substantial impact by this latest move, however, may still be affected as their supply lines from other companies adjust again to working at a distance.

What Covid rules were already in place in England?

The rules Include:

  • Pupils at secondary schools are "strongly advised" to wear face coverings in communal areas; as should staff and visitors at all schools and childcare settings

  • Contacts of suspected or confirmed Omicron cases will be contacted and required to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their age or vaccination status

  • Anyone travelling to the UK has to take a PCR or LFT no more than 48 hours before their departure, and a PCR test within 48 hours of arrival in the UK - and must self-isolate until they have a negative result

  • 1m-plus social distancing remains in places such as hospitals and passport control

  • Anyone with Covid symptoms or who tests positive has to self-isolate

What do firms have to do to keep workers safe?

A reminder - Employers must follow official safety guidance and carry out Covid Risk assessments for those who are in the office.

Safety Measures can Include :

  • Minimising visitors

  • Improving ventilation

  • using one way systems

  • additional cleaning