The government has confirmed that all Plan B coronavirus restrictions will be lifted in England.
This includes the end of working from home guidance from 20 January, and the end to compulsory mask wearing and vaccine passports from 27 January.
Read on for an overview of what’s changed and what this means for small businesses.
Plan B was introduced in December to minimise the spread of the new Omicron variant across England. It’s now been confirmed that these restrictions will not be renewed on 26 January.
Here’s what you need to know:
But what does this mean for businesses?
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that working from home guidance is no longer in place.
This will be welcome news for many businesses that have missed out on trade from office workers, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors. If your business is in a city centre then you may well start to see footfall increase as people begin to return to the workplace.
Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, said: “Lifting the work from home guidance will undoubtedly benefit independent traders in city and town centres – particularly those in the hospitality industry, who experienced mass cancellations as Omicron spread, and have suffered disproportionately in recent times.”
Following the government’s announcement, Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business, said: "Many small business owners across the UK will be breathing a sigh of relief following the announcement that Plan B restrictions will lapse next week.
"Of course, public health is paramount. But it can’t be overstated how important it is for all of us that small businesses bounce back. Making up 99% of all UK businesses and contributing trillions of pounds a year in turnover, they’re the lifeblood of our economy and communities.
"Small businesses are still in recovery mode, and almost half are still suffering financially from the worst of the pandemic, which cost owners a staggering £126.6bn in total. With many still living in fear of future lockdowns and the impact of further restrictions on trade, today’s news will be a much-needed confidence boost as the country’s self-employed look to get business back on track."
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Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of UKHospitality, commented on the lifting of restrictions: "This is fantastic news for the hospitality sector, after the critical Christmas trade was laid to waste for the second year running."
As these restrictions ease, responsibility will shift from the government to employers and individuals when it comes to Covid-19 safety measures.
Masks will no longer be required from next week, but the government is encouraging people to consider wearing masks in indoor public spaces and on public transport to remain safe.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “In the country at large we will continue to suggest the use of face coverings in enclosed or crowded spaces, particularly when you come into contact with people you don’t normally meet, but we will trust the judgment of the British people and no longer criminalise anyone who chooses not to wear one.”
From 27 January, you won’t be able to enforce mask-wearing for customers and staff in your business and must be aware of your responsibilities under the Equality Act.
We’ve seen a range of new financial support packages for businesses struggling with the pandemic and impact of the Omicron variant, including:
For the self-employed completing their Self Assessment this month, make sure you declare any Covid-19 grants on your tax return.
While this latest announcement will be welcome news for many businesses, staff shortages and absences continue to impact sectors across the economy.
That said, Thomas adds that this move is 'hopefully another positive step for small businesses in the road to recovery'.
Always check the latest coronavirus information on the UK government website.
How do you feel about the lifting of restrictions? Let us know in the comments below.
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