COVID-19: Workplaces told to plan for absences of up to 25%

Ministers have been tasked with developing “robust contingency plans” for workplace absences, as the government warned rising cases could see up to a quarter of staff off work.**

Public sector leaders have been asked to prepare for “worst case scenarios” of 10%, 20% and 25% absence rates, the Cabinet Office said.

The UK has seen record numbers of daily cases over the festive period.

Transport, the NHS and schools have already seen the effect of absences.

Rising case numbers have led to large numbers self-isolating and being unable to go to work. This has particularly affected industries where staff are unable to work from home.

Cabinet Office Minister Steve Barclay is chairing regular meetings with ministers to assess how the spread of the Omicron variant is affecting workforces and supply chains, the Cabinet Office said.

The prime minister had asked ministers working with their respective sectors to test preparations and contingency plans to limit disruption, it explained.

Mr Barclay said the highly transmissible Omicron variant meant businesses and public services “will face disruption in the coming weeks, particularly from higher than normal staff absence”.

However, his department said that so far disruption caused by Omicron has been controlled in “most parts of the public sector”.

Rising cases are affecting the NHS, with 24,632 staff at hospital trusts ill with coronavirus or self-isolating on 26 December, up 31% on the previous week and nearly double the figure at the start of the month, according to NHS England. COVID hospital admissions are at their highest level since January 2021.

“Optimists” may claim “death rates are down”, “Omicron’s just like 'flu”, “herd immunity prevents sickness” and so on but one of the worst characteristics of COVID, especially Omicron, is its transmissibility. This has always meant variable, but increasing, numbers of people “taking time off sick”, whether they be infected or suspected, working or not.

This has been apparent for months in the service and supply industries, but the arrival of Omicron has changed the picture completely. In the last week in the UK, over 1,000,000 people have been confirmed as COVID positive and will, for the most part, isolate themselves for 7 days or more from society. At that rate, at least 4,000,000 people will be taking at least a week’s “break” from society in January. The impact of such a mass “absence”, whether from work or family, will be devastating.

I think it is the same worldwide.

They have just changed the isolation rules for Health Care Workers in NSW because they fear running out of staff as the Omicron strain moves through the community. There were over 18000 new cases in NSW alone yesterday and hospital admissions have topped 1000 for the first time with 83 people in ICU. This is part of NSW Premier’s policy of letting the virus rip through to become endemic rather than pandemic

Yes, going to be major problems and ongoing.

If it turns out you can get Covid more than once, and it looks as if you can, then there’s going to be permanently a higher level of sick absence?

So financial probs with more sick pay, getting things done slower, and not being able to count on anything running.

This is where the self isolation rules can kick a nation in the wallet. Testing positive with absolutely zero symptoms still means a minimum isolation period. A neighbour phoned this morning to say she’s tested positive earlier so wont be round for Sunday roast and she’ll not be working next week either (pharmacist); she said she has no symptoms so could work if allowed and this is the rub as she’ll have to stay home for the week and keep testing.
I tested and I’m in the clear and so is my wife but we were with neighbour at some stage for the past 3 days each day … work that one out🤷‍♂️

Staff shortages are causing rubbish collection delays and overflows.