Businesses experienced over a year of furloughs, grants, business closures, re-openings and then further lockdowns before finally coming out of hibernation this summer. Many provisions have been left in place to help support the UK through reopening and ensuring that rising numbers of Covid positive patients are kept to a minimum. In response to a recommendation for continued monitoring of the situation, the UK Government announced its COVID-19 autumn and winter 2021 plan many employers will have been left asking what the plan meant for them and their staff. Here we take a look at what those Plans entail and cover some frequently asked questions about Plan B.
What’s the Plan?Or, should we say Plans? The UK Government published Covid-19 Response: Autumn And Winter Plan. This summarised the lockdown restrictions and rules that were removed and outlined the provisions that would remain in place to manage and support the ongoing pandemic. This takes the form of two plans. The plans (Plan A and Plan B) apply in England. Other country in the UK including Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland will create their own plans or rules to follow this autumn and winter.
Plan AThe plan we are currently following is Plan A and England will follow this until further notice is given. The basic standards of Plan A are:
Building defences through pharmaceutical interventions including vaccines and antivirals.
Identifying and isolating positive cases to limit transmission: Test, Trace and Isolate.
Supporting the NHS and social care.
Advising people on how to protect themselves and others with guidance.
Pursuing an international approach to help to vaccinate the world and manage risks at the border.
Not ask nor allow employees to attend the workplace if they are required to self-isolate
Ask employees who feel unwell to stay at home.
Ensure there is adequate supply of fresh are into indoor spaces by opening windows and/or doors.
Provide hand sanitiser and supplies to clean surfaces which are regularly touched.
Consider using, as appropriate, the NHS QR code poster for customers to check in and the NHS COVID-19 app
Plan B entails the following:
Working from home where reasonable and possible
Legal requirement to wear face masks in certain settings (these will be outlined should Plan B be implemented)
Asking the public to be more cautious
Mandatory vaccine passports for nightclubs, indoor settings with more than 500 attendees, festivals and other outdoor setting with greater than 4000 people and any setting for more than 10000 people.
Can an employer reduce employee’s pay because they work from home full or part time?The quick answer is no! The only way an employer can reduce an employee’s pay is with agreement from the member of staff. If your staff are still performing the same tasks, it’s unlikely they will jump at the idea of less pay; especially if colleagues who are hybrid working, or office based keep the same pay. Whilst it may be easy to think that an employee’s ancillary costs such as transport or clothing expenses are reduced by working from home; it should not be overlooked that the cost of their utility bills are likely to increase.
How does an employer support staff working from home?The UK Government advice clearly sees the necessity for hybrid working; especially should it become necessary to implement Plan B. It’s a good idea to review any risk assessments and consider what the best actions will be should the UK need to return to home working. Any staff with disabilities or special needs will need considerations for their working spaces to be made to ensure they are working safely.Employers should have discussions with their staff to fully understand their needs and the best way to ensure business continuity. Employers should also ensure they have a thorough home working policy which covers things such as (this is not an exhaustive list) :
Healthy and safety
GDPR and data protection