Employers have been urged to have a flexible, robust employee benefit and wellbeing plan of action ready to deploy at short notice if the pandemic puts paid to their workers’ return to the office.
The warning follows changes to government advise made without an announcement on Friday, that people should not travel into and out of areas hardest hit by the Indian coronavirus variant unless necessary.
The guidance is for Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside.
Responding to the reports, Steve Ellis, head of employee benefit consulting at Prosperis, told Health & Protection that he has several clients within the affected areas.
“In most cases employees remain as home workers with strict protocols for those going in to work. The immediate response was to put on hold plans to return on 21 June until the situation becomes clearer.
“The biggest concern has been aired by employers who are just outside the areas of concern where employees are coming from the affected areas. As an example, Kirklees is in close proximity to three cities where the borders are simply lines on a map.”
Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, called the guidance a significant wake-up call to everyone that reminds employers that the pandemic and its associated restrictions are not over in the UK as yet.
“Employers across the UK would be wise to assume that local or national resurgences of the virus will occur from time to time for at least the rest of 2021 – and possibly beyond too – so all employers should aim to have a plan of action ready to deploy at very short notice,” he said.
“I would encourage employers to have a robust plan in place that includes access to all employee benefit and wellbeing support wherever the worker may be based – be that at home, at work, or even abroad.
“Only by having this in place and accessible can employers fully support workers through a resurgence of Covid-19 or indeed any other infectious disease of the future.”