The UK government has published its COVID-19 response autumn and winter plan 2021.
The government’s Plan A relies on building the country’s defences through vaccines and other pharmaceutical interventions; continuing to use “Test Trace and Isolate”; protecting the NHS; giving clear guidance to people and businesses on how to protect themselves; and helping vaccinate the world and manage risks at the border.
As people begin to return to the workplace, businesses are advised to follow the government’s Working Safety guidance to reduce risk of transmission. This guidance should be considered when preparing health and safety risk assessments and putting in place suitable mitigations. In particular, the plan:
- Reminds employers that they must not ask or allow employees to come to work if they are required to self-isolate.
- Encourages employers to:
- Ask employees to stay at home if they are feeling unwell
- Ensure there is an adequate supply of fresh air to indoor spaces (including taking steps to improve airflow in poorly ventilated areas)
- Provide hand sanitiser and clean surfaces which people touch regularly
- Display an NHS QR code poster for customers to check in using the NHS COVID-19 app
- Consider using the NHS COVID Pass.
The government’s autumn and winter plan includes contingency plans (“Plan B”) in the event that measures are needed to prevent “unsustainable pressure” on the National Health Service.
The measures that may be introduced under Plan B include:
- Introducing mandatory vaccine-only COVID-status certification in certain settings
- Making it mandatory to wear face coverings in certain settings
- Asking people to work from home if they can, for a limited period
However, the government recognises that homeworking causes disruption and has significant costs implications for businesses and the economy, so a final decision on home working will be made in light of the Covid data at the time.
Key Action Points for Human Resources and In-house Counsel
It is possible that workers who can work from home will be asked to do so over for a limited period over the autumn/winter. The government is providing details now of measures that may need to be introduced in the autumn and winter, so that businesses know what to expect and can prepare for this.