The latest work from home rules start today in England, as Plan B starts to be implemented – but do they apply to you?
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland had already had work from home – either suggested or mandated.
In Scotland, employers have been told to hold staff back from going into a physical workspace until at least the middle of January.
Welsh leaders, meanwhile, said workers should not be “required or placed under pressure to return” to an office unless there’s an obvious need for their physical presence.
And in Northern Ireland, ministers asked employers to support rather than impose home working, if it’s at all possible.
Does working from home make you feel isolated?
In England, Boris Johnson said last week workers should work from home “if you can”.
According to the Government’s guidance “office workers who can work from home should do so”.
But, people who find their home environment “challenging” can be considered for in-office working. Also, those who need to access equipment – including software – for their role should continue to go into a physical office.
Those whose role “must be completed in person” will also be exempt from working from home.
The government recognises mental health issues and isolation as detrimental to the workforce and advises employers to keep this in mind when deciding work from home policy.
People should be considered to work in their place of employment if they have a “challenging home working environment”.
However, none of the government’s suggestions on working from home are mandatory, it has instead called the information as ‘advice’.
NHS support for Plan B
Boris Johnson said the new rules would meet the challenge of the new Omicron variant, which was lauded by the NHS last Wednesday.
However, in response to the PM’s declaration of an Omicron emergency last night and raising the UK alert level to four, the NHS said this enhanced focus on vaccinations could lead to disruption elsewhere in the service, but added “the NHS will remain open for business including for urgent treatment”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The Government has sent a very clear message to the NHS that ramping up Covid-19 jabs, including boosters, must be its number one priority due to the intensifying concerns about omicron. The NHS will therefore do everything it can to get even more vaccines into people’s arms so that the public has the maximum possible level of protection.”
He also called on the public to do help with efforts to reduce the spread. Besides previously agreeing with working from home, he also said the public could be: “booking their booster shots in advance to help manage demand, volunteering at their local vaccination sites. Taking up the offer of a digital consultation if that is offered in the first instance within primary care, and people continuing to behave in ways that help reduce the spread of the virus.”
Voting on three Plan B elements on Tuesday
However, the government’s rush into Plan B has been criticised by some unions, who are calling for the furlough scheme to return.
Ministers are voting on Tuesday to decide on ‘Covid passports ‘ – which is expected to see opposition from 60 Conservative MPs.
The other two votes is likely to be on wearing facemasks and a vote on whether testing negative should exempt isolating for those exposed to a positive case.