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Work From Home Guidance Re-Introduced Under COVID-19 Plan B in England

on Thursday, 09 December 2021.

After rising speculation, the Prime Minister has announced 'Plan B' restrictions for England, which will come into force over the coming week in an effort to slow down the transmission of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.

The main restrictions announced include increasing the use of compulsory face masks to most public venues, requiring vaccine passports or negative lateral flow tests in order to gain entry into nightclubs and venues, and re-introducing guidance to work from home. We expect the Government will shortly publish updated guidance on the new Plan B rules and how they should be implemented.  In the interim, we have some initial information on the new rules and their practical impact on employers.

What Are the New Working From Home Rules?

Working from home will not be compulsory under Plan B, but the Prime Minister has said people should work from home if they can. This brings England in line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where work from home guidance is already in place because of the new Omicron variant.

The new guidance on working from home will come into effect on Monday 13 December, meaning employers have the rest of the week to communicate with staff and make any necessary arrangements to facilitate a return to home working.  

How Long Will the New Rules Be in Place?

No timescale has been announced for the new rules to remain in place. The Government acknowledges that whilst it is clear the Omicron variant is highly transmissible, we do not yet know the extent to which it makes people seriously ill, and/or evades the vaccine. Plan B has been put in place in an attempt to buy time for the booster rollout to gather pace whilst key data continues to be gathered on what the Omicron variant might mean for the future.

What if Working From Home Is Not Possible?

In workplaces where working from home is not possible, staff can continue to attend the workplace in person. All employers should ensure their COVID-19 risk assessments are up-to-date regardless of whether their staff will be working from home or on site.

Where on-site working continues to be required, thought should be given to other ways it might be possible for employers to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace, for example through increasing ventilation, requiring mask wearing and reintroducing social distancing measures if these have been relaxed.

For more information on the effects of Plan B, please contact Gareth Edwards in our Employment Law team on 07899 915692, or complete the form below.

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