- 24 Jan 2022
- 2 min read
Prime Minister announces the lifting of Plan B restrictions
The Prime Minister has announced the lifting of several restrictions in England that were brought in to respond to the Omicron variant in December 2021:
- The work from home guidance ended on 19 January 2022.
- The legal requirement to wear a face covering will end on 27 January 2022. The government is suggesting that face coverings continue to be used in enclosed or crowded places, but this is not a legal requirement.
- The legal requirements to self-isolate for those who test positive for COVID-19 and for unvaccinated close contacts of positive cases currently remain. However, it is expected that all requirements to self-isolate will end when the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-isolation) (England) Regulations 2020 expires on 24 March 2022. The expiry of the Regulations will also mean that payment of statutory sick pay for those self-isolating will cease.
Why is this important?
As the work from home mandate has now been removed, companies will have the choice to bring back employees who have been working from home due to government guidance.
Employers still have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees, so it is still important to listen and respond to any concerns employees may have about returning to the office, particularly if they are vulnerable or they have been working from home for some time. Employers will have the choice on which measures to keep or allow in the workplace, (e.g. wearing face coverings).
Requiring employees to return to the workplace may see a rise in flexible working requests from those who wish to permanently work from home or have a hybrid working arrangement. Many employers saw working from home as a positive step and will have already introduced permanent hybrid working policies. Others may still be relying on temporary policies put in place during the pandemic which may not be appropriate for the long-term and should be reviewed.
What should you do?
- Review the working arrangements of your workforce. Consider which employees you require to return to the workplace. Ensure you are treating employees fairly if only some are required to return.
- Consider and respond fully to any concerns employees may raise about returning to the workplace. Take legal advice if you intend to take action against employees who refuse to return (e.g. disciplinary action).
- Review your hybrid and agile working policies to ensure they are sufficient for the long-term.
- Review any COVID measures your workplace has and decide whether you want to keep them. Ensure you are communicating to your employees which measures will remain or be removed, and why. Consider and respond fully to any concerns employees may raise.