Civil servants are testing preparations and contingency planning so that disruption caused by increased Covid-19 infection is minimised in public services.
Public sector leaders have been asked to test plans against worst case scenarios of workforce absence scenarios of 10%, 20% and 25%.
They have identified a range of mitigations, including identifying additional staff - such as volunteers in the public sector or former teachers in schools - prioritising service delivery and reducing bureaucracy.
Regular data is being fed into the Cabinet Office to identify early any potential disruption and take any steps to mitigate them. The contingency planning uses the New Government Situation Centre and a central taskforce of civil servants based in the Cabinet Office and working across government and with the devolved administrations.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Steve Barclay, is chairing regular meetings with ministers to closely monitor the impacts of Omicron on the Civil Service, and the wider supply chains that departments oversee.
"As people return to work following the Christmas break, the high transmissibility levels of Omicron mean public services will face disruption in the coming weeks, particularly from higher than normal staff absence," said Steve Barclay, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. "We have been working through the Christmas period to prepare where possible for this, with all departments liaising closely with public and private sector leaders who are best placed to operationally manage their workforces."
A number of steps have already been taken to minimise any potential workforce or supply chain disruption, including using digital staff passports for NHS staff to allow them to move between hospitals easily, and asking qualified teachers who are no longer in the profession to sign-up to temporarily fill absences and support schools to remain open in the new term.
James is the Editor of Government Transformation magazine, and has been covering digital government and public sector reform for 20 years. He also oversees the development of the agenda for the UK's biggest public sector transformation conference.