Following on from Boris’ much criticised announcement yesterday evening, the Government have today published more detailed guidance titled “OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy”.
I have copied and pasted the key points from an employment perspective below, but in short, if employees can work from home they should continue to do so, and where that is not possible, employees “should” travel to work if their workplace is open. The guidance goes on to state that the following workplaces “should be open” – food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories, with 4 July being the earliest date that the likes of hairdressers and the hospitality sector will open.
Instructing businesses to re-open and for employees to attend their place of work is bound to lead to concerns over further spread of the virus, as well as tough decisions for both business owners and employees. I am anticipating increased levels of friction between employers requiring their employees to attend, and employees refusing to do the same. If you are thinking of reopening your business, or inviting employees to return, you will need to be mindful of ensuring you have provided a safe place to work and that your staffing ratios remain profitable. If as a business owner you are considering reduced hours, enforced homeworking and/or redundancies, our fixed price Post-Lockdown Business Survival Kits may be of interest https://wolferstans.com/business-services/post-lockdown-survival-kits-for-businesses/
The difficulty for employees, is that seemingly, the decision to open rests with the business owner and employees are being told that they “should attend”. If you were hoping for a detailed analysis of whether a business should re-open then you will be sadly disappointed. Other than commenting on the types of businesses that cannot open until at least 1 June or 4 July, the guidance on the workplace is limited to the following:
For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible.
This will help minimise the number of social contacts across the country and therefore keep transmissions as low as possible. All those who work are contributing taxes that help pay for the healthcare provision on which the UK relies. People who are able to work at home make it possible for people who have to attend workplaces in person to do so while minimising the risk of overcrowding on transport and in public places.
All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open.
Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example this includes food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and non-essential retail which during this first step the Government is requiring to remain closed.
As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines, as set out in the previous chapter, which will be published this week. These will ensure the risk of infection is as low as possible, while allowing as many people as possible to resume their livelihoods.
It remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work. Those people should self- isolate, as should those in their households.
Please click here to see the full plan https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/884171/FINAL_6.6637_CO_HMG_C19_Recovery_FINAL_110520_v2_WEB__1_.pdf?mc_cid=8906abd006&mc_eid=7c10fc3bef
In the House of Commons this afternoon, pressure was applied on Boris to provide further clarification on which workplaces should open, but he ambiguously stated that workplaces should only open if they are “covid-secure” and “social distancing could be observed”.
Further Guidance on workplaces will be released later this evening while guidance on public transport will follow, but in the meantime employers and employees are being forced to take uncomfortable decisions. Indeed, Boris added to the ambiguity by clarifying that individuals “should” wear face masks when using public transport (and other crowded spaces) but that it was not compulsory.
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Partner, Solicitor, Head of Business Services