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With 336,893 new COVID-19 cases reported in the seven days ending on 8 December 2021 (the highest since the week to 16 January 2021) and the concern around the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, it is being widely reported that “Plan B” may be implemented in the coming days (and possibly as soon as tomorrow).

What is “Plan B”?

As part of its COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan 2021, the government clarified that if the data suggests the NHS is likely to come under unsustainable pressure, it has prepared a “Plan B” for England. 

The government’s “Plan B” prioritises measures which can help control transmission of the virus while seeking to minimise economic and social impacts. This includes:

  • Communicating clearly and urgently to the public that the level of risk has increased, and with it the need to behave more cautiously.
  • Introducing mandatory vaccine-only COVID-status certification in certain settings.
  • Legally mandating face coverings in certain settings (although this is now already a legal requirement on public transport and in retail settings).
  • Possibly asking people once again to work from home if they can, for a limited period. Although the government recognises this causes more disruption and has greater immediate costs to the economy and some businesses than the other Plan B interventions

Implications for employers

  • Recent decisions to bring employees back to the office (often on a hybrid working basis) will need to be reconsidered if working from home is recommended.
  • Employers operating in the leisure and hospitality sector will need to be mindful that an introduction of vaccine-only COVID-status certification may well apply to their businesses.
  • If these restrictions are introduced, employers may need to consider whether changes to terms and conditions and/or redundancies are necessary.

BCLP has assembled a COVID-19 Employment & Labor taskforce to assist clients with employment law issues across various jurisdictions. You can contact the taskforce by email here. You can also view other thought leadership, guidance, and helpful information on our dedicated COVID-19 / Coronavirus resources page.