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How to make the new ‘Living with Covid’ plan work for your small business

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The UK government has confirmed that England will end all Covid self-isolation laws on Thursday, as part of its ‘Living with Covid’ plan. What does this mean for SMEs?

Earlier this month, Boris Johnson announced that all Covid-19 rules in England will be scrapped by the end of February.

The new plan has major implications for small businesses, including scrapping the requirement for individuals to self-isolate if they test positive for Covid-19.

Free mass testing is also scheduled to end on April 1.

Below, we look at what exactly the changes are, what they mean for small business owners, and how you can support and prepare your workforce for ‘Living with Covid’.

What is England’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan?

Boris Johnson’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan will take place over three stages.

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The first stage has already taken place. New rules introduced on February 21 mean that staff and students in most education and childcare settings no longer have to test twice weekly.

But the change that will have the biggest impact on small businesses is the scrapping of all self-isolation rules from 24 February.

That means people with Covid will no longer be legally required to self-isolate for the previously-required period of five days.

Other new rules include:

  • Guidance will remain that those who test positive stay at home for five days
  • Contact tracing will end
  • Workers will no longer need to tell their employer if they need to self-isolate
  • Self-isolation support payments for those on low incomes will be scrapped

From 1 April:

  • Covid-19 tests will no longer be free except for the most vulnerable
  • Covid passports will be scrapped (except for international travel)
  • Employers will no longer have to explicitly consider Covid in their health and safety risk assessments
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The plan Boris Johnson has announced to end all legal restrictions is for England only. Restrictions remain in place in other parts of the UK.What do small business leaders think of the announcement?

In a press release, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Mike Cherry said: “Small firms right across England will be hoping that this week definitively marks the end of chopping and changing restrictions that have blighted them over the past two years.

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“The priority now must be containing the virus and protecting community wellbeing whilst avoiding the need to shut down the economy entirely.”

What if my employees test positive for Covid-19?

The scrapping of Covid-19 self-isolation laws puts the responsibility of managing Covid-positive employees onto the business owner.

This means employers are in a slightly trickier situation when it comes to sick policies.

The government has said that ‘guidance’ will remain in place for those who test positive to stay at home and avoid contact with others for at least five full days.

But the lack of legal rules is likely to result in individuals attending the workplace whilst either positive for Covid-19 or showing symptoms.

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With the majority of the UK adult population now fully-vaccinated, symptoms will be milder. It would be unusual for someone to take a week off work because of a cold, and it’s likely only those with serious and/or debilitating Covid-19 symptoms will take time off work.

How can I support members of staff who might be worried about testing positive?

Regardless of the law, the government’s new plan may raise difficult issues for employers, who need to walk a thin line between living with Covid-19 and ensuring the safety of staff.

Many employers have chosen the latter option in the past.

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Indeed, data from employee parking software ParkOffice has shown that employers allowed their staff to abandon the office enmasse during the spread of the Omicron variant pre-Christmas, despite there being no official Government advice to restrict movement.

Over the four week period between late November and the traditional break for Christmas, ParkOffice found there was a massive 92.5% decline in office goers across the UK.

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As more people return to the office, your staff might want to avoid individuals who attend the workplace whilst positive for Covid-19 because they feel it is unsafe.

Legally, employers have a duty to support these employees and manage risks to those affected by their business. Here are a few examples for what that might look like:

Health and safety assessment

While no longer legally required, the way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment – including the risk of COVID-19 – and to take reasonable steps to mitigate any risks to other employees who might be worried about becoming infected with Covid-19.

The Government’s working safety guidance sets out a range of mitigations employers should consider including identifying poorly ventilated areas and taking steps to improve air flow in these areas.

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Run an employee engagement survey and/or forum

Employee feedback surveys are meant to improve productivity by understanding the way your employees think about your company’s current policies and ways of working.

Check the attitude of your workplace towards the new ‘Living with Covid’ plan with an anonymous feedback survey before you decide on any long-term policies.

It might be that your staff are happy to work with people who have tested positive for Covid – or, you might learn that they are unhappy with the new rules and will require more reassurance and support measures.

This is not only a helpful exercise for business leaders, as you can hear concerns and issues directly from your employees. It’s also a good communication channel for staff members to air any grievances and feel they are being listened to.

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Similar to this approach is an employee engagement forum. This is essentially a team discussion amongst a handful of volunteers from your workforce who can then share their ideas on a problem and give feedback on how other employees might be feeling.

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Implement your own self-isolation policy

If you feel that a large enough majority of your staff are concerned about the government’s new plan, there are more forceful steps you can take.

The end of the legal obligation to self-isolate does not prevent employers from having their own restrictions on workplace attendance for those who test positive for Covid-19 – if you choose to do so.

Typically, these rules would be contained in the employer’s policies and may, for example, stipulate that individuals who either test positive for Covid-19, and/or are displaying symptoms of the virus, work from home until a negative test is taken.

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This more assertive action is not without potential risks, and you should make sure to properly communicate your reasoning to staff members to avoid alienating them.

You should also consider:

  • Purchasing home-testing kits for employees who are displaying symptoms of Covid-19 and wish to take a test.As free testing has now been scrapped, putting the onus of purchasing a test on your employees could cause friction.
  • Choosing to keep in place rules on face-coverings, hand washing and other safety measures should you wish. These might further reassure employees that the workplace is safe to continue working in.

Conclusion

The government’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan means it is now lawful for employees to attend the workplace with Covid-19 or with symptoms.

Still, employers should carry out employee surveys to check the temperature of their staff and keep an eye on the mood of the workplace on Covid-19 issues.

There is still debate about whether or not these restrictions should be lifted and a good employer should ensure they are addressing the concerns of staff members who might not feel safe coming into the office – particularly after nearly two years of living with Covid-19 safety measures.

Open communication through employee surveys and even specialist engagement committees will help your staff to function properly and ensure they feel properly supported.

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Business

The Rise of Legacy Chips in the US-China Semiconductor Battle: An Analysis

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Introduction

The US-China semiconductor battle has been ongoing for years, with both countries vying for dominance in the global technology market. However, a new front has emerged in this battle – legacy chips. While the focus has been on cutting-edge technology, the realization is dawning that older-generation chips are still vital to military use, as well as cars and consumer electronics. In this article, we will explore the significance of legacy chips in the US-China semiconductor battle and analyze the implications for both countries.

What are Legacy Chips?
Legacy chips are older-generation chips that are still in use today. These chips were developed in the 1980s and 1990s and are still used in a variety of applications, including military equipment, cars, and consumer electronics. While they may not be as powerful as the latest chips, they are still essential for many critical applications.

The Significance of Legacy Chips in the US-China Semiconductor Battle:
The US-China semiconductor battle has largely focused on cutting-edge technology, with both countries investing heavily in research and development to gain an edge in the global market. However, the importance of legacy chips cannot be overlooked. These chips are still used in many critical applications, including military equipment, where reliability and longevity are essential.

China has been investing heavily in its semiconductor industry in recent years, to become self-sufficient in chip production. However, the country still relies heavily on imports of legacy chips, which are essential for its military equipment. This reliance on imports has become a concern for the Chinese government, which sees it as a potential vulnerability in its national security.

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The US, on the other hand, has been tightening its export controls on legacy chips, citing national security concerns. The US government has been concerned about the transfer of sensitive technology to China, which could be used for military purposes. This has led to tensions between the two countries, with China accusing the US of using export controls as a way to stifle its technological development.

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Implications for Both Countries:
The rise of legacy chips in the US-China semiconductor battle has significant implications for both countries. For China, the reliance on imports for legacy chips is a potential vulnerability in its national security. The country has been investing heavily in its semiconductor industry to become self-sufficient in chip production, but it will take time to achieve this goal. In the meantime, China will need to find ways to secure its supply of legacy chips.

For the US, the tightening of export controls on legacy chips is a way to protect its national security. However, it could also have unintended consequences. China has been investing heavily in its semiconductor industry, and if it is unable to secure a reliable supply of legacy chips, it may accelerate its efforts to develop its chips. This could lead to increased competition in the global semiconductor market, which could ultimately benefit China.

Conclusion
The rise of legacy chips in the US-China semiconductor battle highlights the importance of older-generation technology in critical applications. While the focus has been on cutting-edge technology, legacy chips are still essential for many applications, including military equipment, cars, and consumer electronics. The US-China semiconductor battle has significant implications for both countries, with China seeking to secure its supply of legacy chips and the US tightening its export controls to protect its national security. As the battle continues, it will be interesting to see how both countries adapt to the changing landscape of the global semiconductor market.

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Unleashing NVIDIA’s AI Dominance: A Tale of Shares Soaring and Innovation Surges

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As the world’s premier semiconductor powerhouse, NVIDIA has once again made headlines with its meteoric stock rise—a whopping 14% increase following an impressive sales spike driven by the AI revolution. This seismic shift in technology is not only reshaping industries but also redefining the future of computing as we know it. In this comprehensive analysis, we delve into the catalyst behind these record-breaking gains and explore what lies ahead for NVIDIA in the era of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The ‘Tipping Point’: When AI Metamorphosed from Hype to Reality

The term “AI tipping point” refers to the moment when AI technologies transitioned from mere buzzwords to tangible solutions that are transforming businesses across various sectors. As companies worldwide embrace AI to enhance their operations, drive innovation, and gain competitive advantages, demand for cutting-edge hardware like NVIDIA’s GPUs has skyrocketed.

This trend was further fueled by the pandemic, which accelerated digital transformation efforts globally. With remote work becoming the norm, organizations have been forced to adapt quickly, leading them to invest heavily in cloud infrastructure and advanced data processing capabilities provided by NVIDIA’s AI chips.

NVIDIA’s Strategic Positioning: Leading the Charge in AI Computing

At the heart of NVIDIA’s success story lies its strategic positioning within the AI landscape. By focusing on developing high-performance GPU architectures tailored specifically for AI applications, NVIDIA has managed to establish itself as the go-to provider for enterprises seeking to leverage AI effectively.

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In addition to its market-leading GPUs, NVIDIA offers a robust suite of software tools designed to simplify AI development and deployment. These include CUDA, TensorRT, and NGC, all of which enable developers to build powerful AI systems more efficiently than ever before.

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Moreover, NVIDIA’s acquisition of Mellanox Technologies in 2020 strengthened its position in the data centre space, providing the company with access to state-of-the-art networking solutions that can support the growing demands of AI-driven applications.

The Future of AI Spending: An Endless Horizon for Growth

With AI set to become a $596 billion industry by 2028, there is no doubt that NVIDIA stands poised to capitalize on this unprecedented growth opportunity. According to Jensen Huang, CEO of NVIDIA, the company expects to see even stronger sales due to increased AI spending frenzies.

To ensure continued dominance in the AI sector, NVIDIA plans to expand its product portfolio beyond traditional GPUs. For instance, the company recently announced its intention to develop specialized processors called DPUs (Data Processing Units) aimed at enhancing the performance of AI-based applications running on servers.

By diversifying its offerings and staying one step ahead of emerging trends, NVIDIA aims to maintain its leadership role in the AI ecosystem while driving innovation forward.

Conclusion: Embracing the AI Revolution with Confidence

As NVIDIA continues to lead the charge in AI computing, investors and tech enthusiasts alike must remain vigilant about the potential risks and challenges associated with such rapid growth. However, given the company’s strong track record of innovation and strategic decision-making, it seems safe to say that NVIDIA will continue to thrive amidst the ongoing AI revolution.

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So, whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking to harness the power of AI or simply someone interested in keeping up with the latest developments in the tech sphere, stay tuned for exciting times ahead as NVIDIA spearheads the AI revolution!

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Rising from Adversity: Kharkiv’s Tech Start-Ups and the Art of Business Resilience in Ukraine

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In the bustling city of Kharkiv, Ukraine, a remarkable story of resilience and innovation is unfolding. Despite facing extreme disruption, the region’s tech start-ups have defied the odds, showcasing the indomitable spirit of Ukraine’s entrepreneurs and engineers. This article delves into the extraordinary journey of Kharkiv’s tech ecosystem, exploring how it has emerged as a testament to unwavering determination and adaptability in the face of adversity.

Introduction

The city of Kharkiv has long been a hub of technological advancement and entrepreneurial fervour. Home to a burgeoning community of start-ups and tech companies, it has rapidly gained recognition as a hotbed of innovation in Ukraine. However, the region’s resilience has been put to the ultimate test in recent years, as it grappled with unprecedented challenges ranging from political unrest to armed conflict. Despite these adversities, Kharkiv’s tech start-ups have not only survived but thrived, offering invaluable lessons in business resilience.

The Genesis of Kharkiv’s Tech Ecosystem

To understand the remarkable resilience of Kharkiv’s tech start-ups, it is essential to delve into the origins of the region’s burgeoning ecosystem. The city’s rich legacy of academic excellence and scientific research laid the groundwork for a vibrant culture of innovation. With a strong emphasis on STEM education and a pool of talented engineers and developers, Kharkiv became an ideal breeding ground for tech entrepreneurship.

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Navigating Adversity: The Impact of Political Unrest and Armed Conflict

The outbreak of political unrest and armed conflict in Ukraine cast a dark shadow over Kharkiv’s burgeoning tech scene. The region found itself grappling with economic instability, infrastructure disruptions, and an uncertain business environment. In the face of such formidable challenges, many would have expected Kharkiv’s tech start-ups to falter. However, what transpired was nothing short of extraordinary.

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Adaptability in Action: Pivoting Strategies and Innovation

Faced with extreme disruption, Kharkiv’s entrepreneurs and engineers demonstrated remarkable adaptability, swiftly pivoting their business strategies to navigate the tumultuous landscape. From embracing remote work models to diversifying their product offerings, these companies showcased an unparalleled ability to innovate in the face of adversity. The rapid adoption of cutting-edge technologies and agile development methodologies further underscored their commitment to staying ahead of the curve.

Forging Resilient Partnerships: Collaborative Ecosystem and Global Outreach

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Central to Kharkiv’s resilience was the spirit of collaboration that permeated its tech ecosystem. Start-ups, established companies, academic institutions, and government agencies joined forces to provide mutual support and foster innovation. Furthermore, despite the challenging geopolitical climate, Kharkiv’s tech community actively pursued global partnerships and market opportunities, showcasing an unwavering commitment to growth and expansion.

The Human Element: Nurturing Talent and Well-Being

Amidst the chaos and uncertainty, Kharkiv’s tech leaders recognized the importance of prioritizing the well-being and professional development of their teams. Initiatives focused on mental health support, skill enhancement programs, and inclusive work cultures played a pivotal role in sustaining morale and driving productivity. The emphasis on nurturing talent underscored the human-centric approach that defines Kharkiv’s tech ecosystem.

Looking Ahead: Lessons in Business Resilience for a Global Audience

As Kharkiv’s tech start-ups continue to chart an inspiring path of recovery and growth, their journey offers invaluable insights for businesses worldwide. The principles of adaptability, collaboration, innovation, and human-centric leadership that have underpinned their success serve as a compelling blueprint for building resilience in the face of extreme disruption. By studying the experiences of Kharkiv’s entrepreneurs and engineers, organizations across the globe can glean actionable strategies to fortify their business resilience.

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Conclusion

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In conclusion, Kharkiv’s tech start-ups have emerged as beacons of hope and inspiration in the face of unprecedented challenges. Their unwavering resilience, innovative spirit, and collaborative ethos have not only sustained their businesses but also propelled them towards new heights of success. As Ukraine’s entrepreneurs and engineers continue to defy adversity, their story stands as a testament to the transformative power of resilience in business. The world can undoubtedly draw profound lessons from Kharkiv’s remarkable journey—a journey that epitomizes the triumph of human ingenuity in the most trying times.

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