Omicron variant: five steps to reduce risk and disruption

Gavin Scarr Hall - Director of Health and Safety

December 06 2021

The government has launched new measures tackle the ‘Omicron’ COVID-19 variant.

Along with a return to face masks on public transport and in shops, there’s also tougher self-isolation rules for travellers returning to the UK. Which means more disruption for employers like you…

So, to protect your business from COVID-related absences, follow our checklist of HR and health & safety tasks:

1. Roll out tighter safety measures

Concerns over the new COVID-19 variant are ramping up. So if you have vulnerable or anxious staff, they could feel seriously unsafe at work.

Plus, while the severity of the new variant is still unknown, it’s important to tread carefully. Not being cautious could lead to widespread or severe sickness in your workforce – especially if the new variant is more transmissible.  

So, if you relaxed your COVID control measures, now’s the time to return to tighter safety guidelines. And if you didn’t, see if you can toughen up your existing measures. Here’s how:

  • Increase the amount of ventilation in your workplace.
  • Clean surfaces and communal ‘touch points’ more frequently.
  • Ask staff to leave a 1 or 2 metre distance between each other while they work.
  • Ask staff or customers to wear face coverings – even if you’re not required to by law.
  • Block off communal areas.
  • Stagger breaks and exit times to avoid crowding.

Once you’ve outlined your tougher safety measures, update your COVID-19 risk assessment and share it with your staff.

2. Make your Christmas party safer

Current guidance doesn’t say anything about avoiding contact with other people. So, your Christmas party – or any other staff event – can still go ahead.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind staff safety. As the severity of the variant is still unknown, you should take steps to curb the spread where you can. Otherwise, you could face heaps of absences during the busy festive rush…

Think about ways you could make staff events a little more COVID-secure. Whether it’s taking the festivities outdoors or simply letting more air in, take practical steps to reduce risk.

Also, advise your staff to take a lateral flow test before attending. This reduces the risk of the virus spreading through your festivities like wildfire.

And of course, make it clear that staff don’t have to attend if they feel uncomfortable.

3. Create a policy for foreign trips

If your employee is heading abroad, think about how you plan to accommodate the new self-isolation rules. Because now, your employees will need to take a PCR test within two days of returning to the UK – and isolate until they get a negative result.

Does your employee have enough holiday left to book extra leave for their self-isolation? If not, see if you can allow remote work or offer unpaid leave.

Create a policy for overseas trips which outlines how you plan to tackle any self-isolation periods. Sharing this with your staff before they jet off means there’s no nasty surprises when they return.

4. Make plans for flexible working

As it stands, there are no plans to return to the government’s ‘Plan B’: which would include asking your employees to work from home if possible.

However, with concerns growing about the new variant, it’s good to plan ahead for Plan B. This means you won’t suffer delays if remote working guidance comes into force, and you’re not prepared.

This involves making sure your employees have the equipment they need to tackle their work from home.

Plus, if you do return to remote work, it’s good to create a remote working policy which includes:

  • Your expectations on availability and responsiveness.
  • What tools staff should use to communicate.
  • Guidance on clocking in and out – a tool like Blip in BrightHR allows staff to check in to work remotely, no matter where they’re working from.
  • Health & safety guidelines – like completing a DSE checklist – to make sure your employees are working in a risk-free environment.
  • Security guidance – like asking staff to use a VPN or avoid public Wi-Fi to avoid data breaches.
  • Any consequences for not following your remote working policy.

5. Call Peninsula for advice

Currently, not much is certain about the new COVID variant.

However, one thing that is certain is you face big decisions over how to best protect your staff and reduce COVID-related absence.

So whether you’re having doubts over your Christmas party or want to strengthen your health & safety policies – or anything at all – get in touch today. You get instant advice from qualified consultants who want the best for your business.

Call now on 0800 028 2420 or discover how our affordable HR or health & safety support can keep you safe and successful.

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