Commenting on the threat that the new Omicron COVID-19 variant poses to the workplace and how employers can best manage the risks particularly in the run up to Christmas, Mike Robinson, Chief Executive of British Safety Council, said:
“Most employers have taken sensible precautions during the pandemic to help protect their staff against catching or passing on COVID-19. The swift way they responded to new government guidance ensured that the workplace did not become the source of transmission that people feared it might. It is vital that we all maintain our efforts, and don’t let down our guard, especially when we are waiting to find out exactly what risks Omicron may pose to our health and the way COVID-19 could spread further.
“Our view at British Safety Council is that employers will know their organisation best and will be able to judge what they can and should do. We would advise them to review and where possible, avoid any non-essential face-to-face contact. This may mean some or all staff working remotely, holding meetings online where it is feasible to do so and, yes, looking at postponing Christmas parties until we are clearer on the risks, especially if they are bringing large numbers together and where non-essential travel is involved.
“I know it’s a tough call to ask people to hold off from celebrating physically together in the run up to Christmas, especially when staff have worked so hard this year. There are other ways of people coming together using online technology and I’d urge employers to look at alternatives, at least until the picture is clearer on Omicron and the risks that it poses.”
British Safety Council has taken its own precautionary action in light of the new Omicron variant. All the following actions are temporary and will be reviewed as more information comes to light:
- Cancelling or postponing any planned overseas business travel from the UK.
- Delivering any UK face-to-face training or auditing remotely.
- Suspending any staff or client face-to-face meetings in the UK until further notice.
- Working remotely and temporarily closing the UK office to all but essential activities.
- Cancelling a planned staff Christmas party.
The British Safety Council has worked with employers since the start of the pandemic to understand and evaluate risks to put appropriate controls in place to safeguard their people and businesses.