Shropshire Chamber welcomes end to Plan B Covid restrictions

Shropshire Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the Government announcement of an end to Plan B Covid restrictions in England.

Chief executive Richard Sheehan
Chief executive Richard Sheehan

People will no longer be told to work from home when the measures lapse on Thursday next week, and mandatory Covid certification will also end.

The wearing of face masks will no longer be mandatory anywhere from next Thursday, but remain recommended, the Prime Minister has confirmed.

Richard Sheehan, Shropshire Chamber’s chief executive, said: “Businesses will welcome this news – although it’s important that we don’t become too complacent and think this means the Covid era is behind us.

“We know that many Shropshire companies are still experiencing significant staff absences due to positive tests, and will want to be cautious about rushing people back to the office too quickly.

“However, and end to the Government’s ‘work from home’ guidance is a signal that things are improving, and will be welcomed by businesses in our town centres which rely on footfall from office workers.

“The removal of a requirement for vaccine passports will also be viewed as a positive for our companies involved in Shropshire’s events sector and night-time economy.”

Mr Sheehan echoed the British Chamber of Commerce’s call for longer-term clarity from the Government over the coming days.

“We need to know about the longer-term contingency plans to support firms, in the event that a new variant creates a fresh wave of serious infections and requires a return of restrictions.

“Uncertainty and insecurity is the enemy of business, and we must do everything in our power to avoid more confusion which creates a loss of confidence.”

The chamber is also calling for testing capacity to be maintained, with reports continuing to emerge of businesses struggling to access rapid testing when they need it.

Meanwhile, Midlands law firm FBC Manby Bowdler is urging businesses to consider their return to work strategies ahead of time to aid a smooth and safe transition back to the workplace.

FBC Manby Bowdler’s head of employment, Julia Fitzsimmons, said: “The guidelines may be relaxing but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the way every employee feels about returning to the office and employers need to be aware of that. Workers may still feel more comfortable in a more spaced out and socially distanced office environment if they are required to work from the premises, and measures should still be in place to protect the health and safety of employees from the Covid virus."

Mental health has been a big focus for employers throughout the pandemic. When the Plan B guidelines relax, FBC Manby Bowdler will be encouraging more of its staff to work from the office to ensure their mental wellbeing.

FBC Manby Bowdler managing director, Neil Lloyd, said: “We introduced hybrid working at the firm during 2020 in response to the pandemic, but our employees enjoyed the added flexibility so much that it was made a permanent thing.

“We are happy to continue to offer our colleagues the chance to work from both home and the office, but as the restrictions are easing we’ll be encouraging them to spend a greater portion of their time in the office. This helps us not only to provide more support and guidance, but it also helps us to monitor and support their mental health and wellbeing, which is difficult to do over a phone or video call.

“I believe overall any changes to the work from home guidance will be a positive thing, particularly for those town and city centre businesses who have suffered as a result of the reduction in footfall. Ultimately, we need to start living with Covid as a part of our daily life.”

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