Working from home guidance returns

The Government’s announcement yesterday (8 December) that “Plan B” will be invoked in response to the rapid spread of the omicron COVID variant, means that working from home guidance will be reinstated in England from Monday 13 December.

Other elements of Plan B (which applies to England, though other nations in the UK are taking similar steps) include:

  • Extending the current rules for wearing face masks, so wearing them becomes mandatory in most public indoor venues, such as cinemas, theatres and places of worship, but not hospitality settings (effective from 10 December).
  • The introduction of COVID “passports”, which will include the option of providing a negative lateral flow test, from Wednesday 15 December. This will mandatory for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather – including unseated indoor events with 500 or more present, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 plus people and any event with 10,000 or more attendees.

Guidance on these measures will be available “in the coming days”, presumably once the necessary regulations have been approved by Parliament.

The guidance that “those who can” should work from home is advisory rather than mandatory, as was the case during the previous national lock-downs. However, this time round the advice is not being given in the context of broader social restrictions which limit the number of people who can meet. This raises some difficult issues for employers who have already planned work events that are due to take place in the run up to Christmas.

Although the Prime Minister has said that people should not cancel Christmas parties (though they should exercise caution) in the current circumstances employers will need to consider carefully whether their plans for work-related parties need to be adjusted or cancelled.

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