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What Does the PM's COVID-19 Winter Plan Mean for Employers?

13 October 2021

Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently laid out his COVID-19 winter response plan to the public, but how will it impact existing working policies?

The winter plan states that the government aims to sustain the progress made and prepare the country for future challenges, while ensuring the National Health Service (NHS) does not come under unsustainable pressure.

The government plans to achieve this by continuing the vaccination programme, identifying and isolating positive cases and managing risks at the border.

Anil Champaneri, Senior HR Consultant and Technical Lead at Alcumus HR and Advisory explains what it means for employers and how it impacts existing policies:

“Under Plan A, which includes offering booster doses to individuals who received vaccination in phase one of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, there appears little impact on employers as most restrictions are lifted.

However, if we move to a Plan B scenario, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced measures such as compulsory face masks in indoor settings, vaccine passports for large outdoor events and indoor events of more than 500 people.

He also stated that businesses will be given one week's notice of such changes, and more guidance on this is to follow to allow businesses to prepare in the event Plan B needs to be activated.


Mask Wearing and Booster Jabs


Anil continued: "In respect of the above, there could be a requirement to wear masks at work. Many employers will already allow this as part of their COVID secure measures, but it could become mandatory.

“The introduction of vaccine passports would mean that employers would need to train their staff in being able to gather the appropriate information/evidence. The government is expected to issue to further guidance on this as mentioned above. 

“With regards to vaccines, those in high priority groups and/or over 50, will be offered a booster jab which means potential time out of the office for those employees who take up this offer. Any side effects from those said jabs could mean those staff are also absent from work due to illness.


Working from Home Again


Government officials are keen to avoid full lockdowns and any measures which will significantly impact the economy.

As Anil explained, they will be reticent to reimpose social distancing rules, which the hospitality industry says severely affects pubs and restaurants:

“However, mask mandates are one lever the government is willing to pull if needed, meaning tens of millions of people will be asked to wear them indoors again if COVID surges. 

“Government guidance urging people to work from home could also be reissued if COVID cases risk overwhelming the NHS. Most employers adapted to home working for staff (where possible) and since measures began easing, many will have adopted hybrid working for their employees.”


Getting Ready for Cold Weather


James Carver, MD at Office Space Cleaning Facilities Management (OSCFM), is taking a prevention rather than cure approach to winter-proofing:

"The arrival of autumn has seen the welcome return of workers to the office. In the first week of September, office occupancy rates rose to 87 per cent which was the highest since the pandemic began. Whilst this is promising news for office operators and businesses alike, it also comes at the same time as news that COVID-19 cases are still climbing. 

“With the winter months fast approaching and no sign of the cases beginning to wane, it is crucial that office operators are not left caught out by another wave of COVID-19. In order to be as prepared as possible, office operators must focus on prevention rather than cure with the adoption of rigorous enhanced cleaning measures.” 


"On average, the UK could see 30,000 deaths in the UK simply from the flu. These shocking statistics highlight the serious need to treat enhanced cleaning measures as a matter of health and safety that are needed to tackle all illnesses."

– James Carver

Managing Director, Office Space Cleaning Facilities Management

Health and Safety Measures


James continued: “In order to focus on prevention, office operators must adopt a new attitude towards cleaning measures. Enhanced cleaning measures, which the government has provided advice on, have been essential throughout the pandemic in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At OSC, we have adopted a ‘flow cleaning’ method throughout buildings where we ensure that we clean as we go so that no small detail, such as lift buttons or other high touch points, gets missed. 

“However, these measures, as well as other additional deep cleans, are more than just a tool against COVID-19 they must also be considered a general matter of health and safety. On average, the UK could see 30,000 deaths in the UK simply from the flu. These shocking statistics highlight the serious need to treat enhanced cleaning measures as a matter of health and safety that are needed to tackle all illnesses.

“It is clear that workers are now expecting extra attention to be paid to the prevention of Covid-19 by office operators. If officer workers are to be tempted back and urged to remain then office providers must be ahead of the curve and ensure they are doing all they can to make their workers feel safe.” 

Picture: a photograph of a person in gloved hands holding a mug containing a hot drink.

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 13 October 2021


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