'Robust' contingency plans drawn up as workplaces face 25% absences due to Omicron

1 January 2022, 22:54 | Updated: 2 January 2022, 06:49

Workplaces have been told to prepare for increased absences in coming weeks.
Workplaces have been told to prepare for increased absences in coming weeks. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Boris Johnson has told ministers to develop "robust contingency plans" for workplace absences as Covid continues to take its toll on businesses.

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He tasked ministers with drawing up the plans with their respective sectors ahead of high Covid levels potentially hitting businesses hard over coming weeks.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay is said to be chairing "regular meetings" with ministers as well, in order to assess how Omicron is affecting workforces and supply chains.

Meanwhile, public sector leaders have been asked to prepare for a worst case scenario of up to a quarter of staff off work as the virus continues to sweep the nation, the Cabinet Office said.

Leaders have been asked to test plans against 10 per cent, 20 per cent and 25 per cent workforce absence rates.

However, the Cabinet Office claimed that, so far, disruption caused by Omicron had been controlled in "most parts of the public sector".

Read more: Sajid Javid: Further Covid restrictions in England an 'absolute last resort'

Read more: Top scientists leading Covid fight recognised in New Year Honours list

Labour argued that plans should have been prepared much sooner, claiming Mr Johnson had previously gone missing "for days on end" when he should have been instructing ministers.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "Boris Johnson's lack of leadership means his Government has dithered and delayed, leaving contingency planning to the very last moment.

"Boris Johnson should have instructed his ministers to start planning weeks ago, but instead he went missing for days on end.

"With record Covid infection numbers, the Prime Minister must immediately get a grip on workforce pressures, keep essential services moving, keep schools open and keep people safe."

It comes amid reports that work-from-home guidance in England could be set to continue for most of January.

However, Health Secretary Sajid Javid insisted on Saturday that more restrictions on freedom would be "an absolute last resort".