With rising cases in the Omicron variant throughout the UK, the government has been forced to intervene. Numerous changes have occurred in terms to our daily life. The workplace being one.
In England, people have been told they should work from home if possible.
In Northern Ireland, ministers said that more people working from home would help to reduce the risk of infection both inside and outside the workplace. However, they didn’t tell employers to impose home working, but instead asked them to support it “where possible”.
In Wales, employers are encouraged to let people work from home where possible. Guidance says staff should not be “required or placed under pressure to return” to the workplace unless there’s a clear business need.
What are the current Covid rules in England?
“Plan B” measures include:
- Compulsory face coverings in most indoor public venues, including theatres and cinemas – as well as on public transport and in shops and hairdressers – but not in pubs or restaurants, or venues such as gyms where it’s “not practical”.
- People should work from home “if they can” and are advised to take lateral flow tests (LFTs) before entering any “high-risk setting”, including busy areas and some workplaces.
- People must show that they’re vaccinated, have recently tested negative (or are exempt) to gain entry to nightclubs and large-scale events.
- All school staff and secondary school pupils should take two lateral flow tests (LFTs) a week, and secondary school pupils must wear face coverings in class until 26 January at the earliest.
Just under 36% of workers in Britain did some work from home in 2020, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
What do employers have to do to keep workers safe?
Although social distancing limits no longer apply across most of the UK, businesses still have a legal duty to manage the risks to staff and customers.
Safety measures can include:
- Minimising visitors
- Improving ventilation
- Using one-way systems
- Additional cleaning
Face-coverings are mandatory for staff and customers in shops and on public transport across the UK.
Who should work from home?
The government guidance states that “office workers who can work from home should do so”.
It says people should continue travelling to work if they need “to access equipment necessary for their role, or where their role must be completed in person”.
Employers have also been asked to think about the health and mental health of their staff when deciding who should stay at home.
They should consider letting people come to work if they have a “challenging home working environment”.
Does working from home help stop Covid spreading?
Working from home is one of the most effective ways to reduce social exposure, according to the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
It greatly limits face-to-face contact both with colleagues and on public transport.
As such, SAGE says it has a “strong impact” against virus transmission and the R number, which represents a disease’s ability to spread.
How safe is commuting by public transport?
Much of the risk depends on how crowded it is and your distance from other people.
Wearing a mask helps, as does keeping windows open, and avoiding peak journey times where possible.