COVID-19: The Government's Autumn & Winter plan
- AuthorSarah Shah
In September, the government published its COVID-19 Response: Autumn and Winter Plan.
The plan sets out how the Government intends to address the challenges posed by COVID-19 over the coming months. The Government’s plan is set out in two parts:
Plan A and Plan B. The full guidance to both plans is available here.
Plan A is described as a ‘comprehensive approach’, however, with the future still hard to predict, the Government has warned that Plan A may not be sufficient.
Plan B is a contingency plan and would "only be enacted if the data suggests further measures are necessary to protect the NHS".
Plan A key messaging:
- Build defences through pharmaceutical interventions - maximise the uptake of the vaccine, offer booster doses and promote antivirals and therapeutics.
- Identify and isolate positive cases - limit transmission by using Test, Trace and Isolate.
- Everyone with COVID-19 symptoms must self-isolate and take a PCR test.
- under 18s and those who are fully vaccinated do not need to self-isolate if they are identified as a contact. If they are identified as a contact, they are advised to take a PCR test and only need to self-isolate if positive.
- contacts who are over 18 and not fully vaccinated are legally required to self-isolate, unless they are taking part in an approved daily contact testing scheme.
- the use of the NHS COVID-19 app will continue to be encouraged.
- Support the NHS and social care with additional funding.
- Advise people on how to protect themselves and others – the government will continue to provide guidance on the behaviours and actions that reduce transmission.
- Pursuing an international approach - by helping to vaccinate the world and managing risks at the border.
Employers should, therefore, continue to encourage staff to have the vaccine when available (as well as any boosters as they become available), review and follow appropriate covid secure arrangements in the workplace and facilitate testing and isolation when appropriate and required.
Plan B key messaging:
- Communicate that the level of risk has increased;
- Introduce mandatory vaccine-only COVID-status in certain settings, such as large crowds and nightclubs;
- Legally mandate face coverings in certain settings (which will be decided at the time); and
- Ask people to work from home if they can.
Plan B will be more disruptive for some employers and is likely to result in a return to working from home for many as well as mandated face coverings and additional checks for vaccine status. It is very much hoped that Plan B will be avoided but if it is not we will be providing updates and can support you and your business if needed.
Guidance for employers
In the meantime, employers must continue to bear in mind that they have a legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of staff and must keep all guidance and best practice under regular review and seek help and support when specific issues arise.
The guidance, first published in July, is tailored to industry sectors and, as such, there are differences between each guide. Our summary of the key messages for employers (regardless of industry) can be found here. The full guidance can be accessed here.
If you would like to discuss anything about the Winter plan and how it might impact on your business or any other employment related issue please do not hesitate to contact any member of the BLHR and employment team on details. You can contact the team via firstname.lastname@example.org.