In recent weeks, the government has accelerated the rollout of the booster vaccination programme by speeding up the booking process to make it easier for people to get added protection.
The government also ran a consultation on proposals to introduce mandatory COVID-19 Status Certification under a Plan B scenario. The CBI responded to this consultation, stressing the need for hospitality firms to be given enough forward guidance to plan for the scheme and clarity on how it would work in practice.
Reminder: the COVID-19 Autumn and Winter Plan A and B
In September, the government published its COVID-19 Autumn and Winter Plan. Outlining a ‘Plan A’ to manage the country through the coming months, but also a contingency ‘Plan B’ in case further measures are needed to protect the NHS and control infection rates.
- Building defences through vaccines, antivirals and therapeutics
- Continuing to identify and isolate positive cases to limit transmission through widespread mass testing
- Supporting the NHS and social care with additional funding and an expanded flu vaccination programme
- Advising people and businesses on how to protect themselves and others through clear guidance and communications
- Pursuing an international approach: helping to vaccinate the world and effectively managing risks at the border.
If data suggests the NHS is likely to come under unsustainable pressure, the government has prepared a Plan B.
Plan B measures would be introduced on a sliding scale rather than all at once. They include:
- 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
- Asking people once again to work from home if they can, for a limited period.
Latest CBI reaction
As we head into a challenging winter, both business and government want to keep the economy open. Industry recognises that to do this, it may be necessary to implement additional Covid secure measures to provide people and businesses with extra reassurance.
Yet to ensure we continue to live confidently with the virus, business urgently needs forward guidance about the introduction of Plan B. In its conversations with the government, the CBI is calling for further clarity about the trigger points for introducing Plan B restrictions, along with further details as to how close the UK currently is to reaching these thresholds. This would help ease the current uncertainty felt by businesses.
If Plan B measures are introduced, it is vital that government communicates swiftly and transparently so that firms are given adequate time to prepare.
Things for businesses to look out for
- Increase in employee relations issues and concerns around using public transport
- Increase in sickness absences/parents unable to work because of children or caring responsibilities
The CBI will continue to gather insight from members on what any future COVID-19 measures mean for business and reflect this in the CBI’s conversations with the government. Businesses can send through anecdotes and questions to the CBI’s dedicated Coronavirus Mailbox.
What can businesses do?
Consider using ‘COVID secure’ tools available to maintain employee and customer confidence, including:
- Using workplace testing to stop mass self-isolation.
- Mandating guidance for face coverings in continuous close-contact settings.
- Following government guidance on hygiene and ventilation.
Support vaccination and booster uptake by:
- Showing flexibility in supporting employees to get their vaccine/booster vaccine during working hours.
- Considering holding organised vaccine days or supporting pop-up vaccination centres.
- Read the CBI’s new settlement for living with the virus, with three key principles to the government for living confidently with the virus
- Read the CBI’s factsheet on workplace testing for COVID-19 to understand the different approaches employers can take.
Government and regulator resources
- Updated guidance from DHSC on self-isolation policy from 16 August
- ICO data protection and COVID-19 advice for organisations.
If you would like to discuss COVID-19 policy in further detail, please get in touch with Ed Richardson.