• Omicron considerations for businesses

    Published: December 8 2021

    The government has recently announced some new safety measures aimed to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant.

    Face coverings are now mandatory again on public transport and shops across England, with hospitality being exempt.

    Travelling abroad

    Under the updated rules, travel restrictions have now been tightened:

    Before travelling abroad

    All travellers over the age of 12 must have proof of a negative test, even if fully vaccinated. This can be a PCR or lateral flow test and must be taken no more than 48 hours before departure for the UK. Free NHS lateral flow kits are not allowed as proof.

    In addition, a passenger locator form will need to be completed by all travellers coming to the UK, even if they are just passing through.

    After returning from abroad

    You must take a PCR test, which must be booked before you travel and bought from a government approved list of providers. Travellers must also self-isolate whilst waiting for results regardless of vaccination status. Should a negative test result be received, you may stop self-isolating.

    Please note there are different rules if you have been in a red list country. All travel updates in relation to coronavirus can be found here, including guidance for travel to and from red list countries.

    Maintaining COVID safety in your workplace

    Many people have now returned to their workplaces, with events, meetings and training are frequently being run as in-person activities.

    Most can appreciate a certain amount of normalcy in the return of interacting face-to-face. However, we recommend that in light of the new Omicron variant, if you own or manage a business, you should try to make plans ahead of government changes to pro-actively reduce the risk of transmission where possible.

    Actions to take now could include:

    • If possible, consider limiting the numbers in the workplace and encourage home working.
    • Where working from home is not possible, you could reintroduce social distancing techniques such as one-way systems, staggered start times, and widening canteen serving times.
    • Requiring negative lateral flow tests before your employees attend face to face meetings or in-person training.
    • Considering moving training or meetings back online.
    • Considering postponing non-essential in-person events, or running them online as an alternative.
    • Speaking with your employees in regard to in-person Christmas parties to find out whether they still want to go ahead. You may want to consider something virtual instead. If you do decide to go ahead, we would recommend ensuring everyone completes a lateral flow the morning before, encourage face coverings where possible, and make sure there is lots of hand sanitiser on tap.

    We also recommend regular reviews of your organisation’s risk assessments and that COVID safety procedures should be monitored on an ongoing basis.

    COVID vaccines remain a contentious issue, but you should still encourage your employees to receive the booster vaccination where possible. Health Secretary Sajid Javid has recently stated that “our vaccines remain our best line of defiance against this virus, in whatever form it attacks us.”

    The differing rules surrounding self-isolation for the for each variant may cause problems for businesses. There will no doubt be situations of uncertainty as to what variant a person is suffering from, which may cause delays in self-isolation whilst waiting for PCR results. You may have to make tough decisions regarding asking employees to self-isolate prior to results.

    Further support

    If you would like further guidance on how to implement safety measures in your workplace or guidance on ensuring your risk assessment is fit for purpose, please fill out our enquiry form below or call us to discuss how we can support you.

    Information correct at time of publication on 8 December 2021.

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