Last reviewed 21 January 2022
What are the current Plan B rules?
There are three key measures under the Government’s current Plan B restrictions:
compulsory face coverings in most indoor public places
advice to work from home where possible
mandatory Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and large events (eg football matches).
These restrictions were set to expire on 26 January 2022.
What has changed?
The Government recently announced a Covid update — these changes apply in England only.
The guidance to work from home was removed on 19 January 2022.
From 20 January 2022, children don’t have to wear face masks in classrooms.
From 27 January 2022, the legal requirement to wear a mask in public places will be removed — although they will still be recommended in some places. Boris Johnson intends to trust the British people to make the right choices.
Also from 27 January 2022, the use of Covid passes will no longer be mandatory but businesses can choose to use them if they want to.
A long-term strategy on living with Covid will be set out in the coming weeks.
Are any Plan B measures staying?
There will still be a legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid.
Self-isolation rules are due to expire on 24 March 2022 — the Government doesn’t expect to renew these and the expiry date may be brought forward if the data supports this.
What does this mean for employers right now?
Employers should update their employees and prepare their workforce for their return.
A risk assessment should be completed to ensure all necessary Covid-secure measures are in place — eg one-way systems, hand sanitisers, screens/barriers, regular cleaning, social distancing, mask wearing reminders, etc.
Many employers will have already gone through the process (sometimes multiple times) of sending staff home then welcoming them back to the workplace.
Where employers have already completed such processes, it may be useful to assess what worked well and what didn’t previously. Reflective exercises can ensure effective measures are put in place this time round to make the return a success.
Employers should have supportive conversations with any employees who are hesitant about returning to the office.
Reasonable adjustments (eg temporary hybrid arrangements to phase return to full-time office working) can go a long way in ensuring employees feel comfortable and supported.
Allowing flexibility at this stage can minimise absence levels, staff turnover and protect motivation, satisfaction and productivity rates later down the line.
Where employees unreasonably refuse to return to the workplace, employers may be able to treat this as a failure to follow reasonable management instructions and manage it as a normal conduct issue but they should first adopt a supportive tone, to see what is causing the hesitancy and if there is a way the employee and employer can work together to reach a conclusion which is beneficial for all.