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03 December 2021

Omicron Covid-19 update

Newsflash for LBG members
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Our latest discussions with LBG

Further to Monday’s Newsflash, we’ve had a couple of meetings with senior business leaders to discuss new Government guidance since the discovery of the Omicron variant which has now been identified in at least 26 countries. We’re still awaiting the outcome of further scientific testing to gauge what – if any – further measures are needed to keep people safe and the NHS able to cope. For now, though, read below for an update on our discussions with LBG

Working from home

LBG listened to our concerns and agreed that colleagues in Scotland should work from home where possible until the wider implications of the Omicron variant become clear. It also agreed to temporarily pause its hybrid working test and learn activity in Scotland until further notice. This is the right response in our view.

We’ve asked, once again, that the bank considers paying an allowance to colleagues who work from home to help offset rising energy prices. As the weather gets colder, some members have told us that the additional cost of keeping the heating on all day is putting them under financial pressure. The bank’s response was:

“Colleagues continue to be able to order furniture and IT equipment in order to support them from working from home. They are also able to make use of bookable desks in offices for wellbeing needs, where they would prefer to be in the office rather than at home. Colleagues may be eligible for tax relief for additional costs for working from home which can be claimed directly through the Government Gateway site”.

If you’re facing financial hardship as a result of the shift from working in a branch, office or site to working from home please get in touch with details of your travel and heating costs pre-pandemic compared to the same costs now. We don’t think anyone should be worse off. But don’t forget, you need to balance financial considerations with your preference of where you work. There are, after all, non-financial benefits of working from home and the bank has made it clear that anyone who wishes to return to work from a branch, office or site can do so.

Sick pay and leave

Now that emergency paid leave has been withdrawn and sick pay and leave re-set to start again from 1st November, we remain concerned about the impact of the pandemic on pay, bonus, attendance management and holiday entitlement.

Whilst the adjustment to ‘re-start the clock’ for sick pay and leave from 1st November was welcome, the increase in instances and duration (regardless of vaccine status) may soon eat into sick pay and leave entitlements given the change in self-isolation requirements for contacts of people who have been identified as a suspected or confirmed case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. These contacts must stay at home and self-isolate even if they are fully vaccinated. As with other contacts legally required to self-isolate, they must complete their full isolation period even if they receive a negative test result during this period.

Line managers can provide flexibility as they feel fair and appropriate and can consider an extension to occupational sick pay to support extenuating circumstances. But if you think you’re not being treated fairly then please get in touch. We don’t think anyone taking every reasonable step to protect their own health and safety should suffer financial consequences for pandemic related absence.

Face coverings

Branch staff have continued to wear face coverings, so not much change for them. Except customers are now mandated to wear them too. We anticipate some issues arising if customers refuse. Staff aren’t expected to manage the problem but this useful guidance about how to handle such customers may help. We’ll be monitoring the number of abuse cases too, so make sure you report any incidents. Here’s our joint statement on tackling abuse at work.

In sites and offices, staff will once again have to put on their mask whilst moving around buildings and in confined spaces such as lifts and canteen areas. We support this change and encourage all members to comply.

We’ve had confirmation that there are ample stocks of both paper and fabric masks.

Pregnant workers

Government guidance has changed and we’re working with LBG and the TUC to clarify the advice as it’s not clear how the Department of Health expect it to be implemented in practice.

In the meantime, if you are pregnant and want advice about your rights at work, get in touch with officer who covers your workplace. Details at the end of this Newsflash.

Foreign travel

Given that more countries have been added to the red list, we wanted to remind you of the rules since it will be your responsibility to take paid or unpaid leave for any quarantine period that applies - read the latest Government guidance on how to quarantine at home after international travel.

Flu jabs

Some vaccination centres are offering flu jabs at the same time as boosters. But if not, don’t forget that LBG will pay for your flu vaccine. This can be done by either:

Please note, if you’ve been contacted by your GP about getting a flu vaccine, it’s recommended that you continue to use their service.

We’ll be back in touch as the scientific research becomes clear. In the meantime, please get in touch with your local Accord Officer if you have any concerns or queries. We’re here to help.

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