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Blog  »  Decemeber 2021  »  The Omicron Variant & The Workplace - Blog
Dec 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The Omicron Variant & The Workplace

Given the recent number of omicron cases in the United Kingdom, the Government has imposed new measures to help combat this new variant but what does this mean for the employer and the workplace?

  • Employers should continue to review and, if necessary, update their COVID-19 risk assessment in light of the new variant. For example, consider whether in-person meetings should be reduced or even scrapped for the time being to limit the risk of spread and to protect the most vulnerable members of staff.
  • They should continue to encourage their staff to get vaccinated and extend this encouragement to boosters also.
  • Any existing vaccination policy should be updated to take into account vaccine boosters. 
  • Consider making the wearing of face masks compulsory in communal areas if this is not already the case.
  • Employers should consider relaxing any requirements for staff to attend the workplace. This would be conducted as part of updating the workplace risk assessment. Although the Government is not explicitly advising people to work from home, they are placing the burden on employers to consider whether this is the appropriate approach.
  • Employers should consider putting contingency plans in place to deal with the possibility of increased absences as a result of staff being required to self-isolate, either because they have tested positive for coronavirus or they have been instructed to isolate because they have been identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive to the Omicron variant. They must also consider

    how any unexpected absences will be dealt with as a result of staff having to self-isolate upon return from any holiday abroad during the festive period. This should be communicated to staff as soon as possible to avoid/manage any possible complaints.

And lastly the big question for employers is can Christmas parties go ahead?

Although the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has said that the Government does not want Christmas parties to be cancelled because of the Omicron variant, there have been reports of pubs, restaurants and hotels across the UK receiving cancellations of bookings for Christmas parties and events amid fears about the variant.

It is important to realise that staff may be nervous about attending such events and therefore it is advisable for employers to communicate with heir employees as to how they feel about such an event and react accordingly. If Christmas parties are to go ahead, employers should consider additional safety measures, such as sight of a negative lateral flow test result before entry.

The key message to employers is to watch developments closely, follow government guidance and to be ready to react quickly in order to adapt to any further measures introduced by the Government in response to the Omicron variant.

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