National Lockdown – Part 3 – what does this mean for employers?
6th January, 2021
At 8pm on Monday 4 January 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown, effective from Tuesday 5 January 2021.
This followed the earlier introduction of local Covid alert levels (or ‘tiers’) which were intended to avoid the need to have a nation-wide lockdown. The increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases, infection rates and hospital admissions, largely attributable to the new variant, have triggered the decision to move to the tier 5 measures.
For many businesses, the introduction of new measures will mean changes to the workplace, especially where employees had started returning to the office. The key message from the Government from today is that “everyone who can work from home must do so”. This has changed from the recent guidance which previously stated “employees who can work from home effectively should be encouraged to do so”. Employers may wish to consider providing equipment to enable employees to continue working from home. If employees cannot work from home, then employers should support them to enable them to plan their journeys to avoid crowds if using public transport.
Workers who cannot work from home, or who cannot attend the workplace due to its closure, can be placed on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (or ‘furlough’), subject to meeting the eligibility criteria. The CJRS has now been extended to April 2021 and full detailed guidance can be found on the Government Website.
As a result of the new changes we would strongly recommend employers updating their COVID-19 risk assessments and ensuring that their health and safety procedures and policies are up to date with the current guidance and rules for those working from and attending the workplace.
We have summarised the other key measures going forwards and what this means for both employers and their workers.
The key measures introduced by the government are:
- Stay at home, except for specific purposes including:
- To shop for basic necessities, for yourself or a vulnerable person.
- To go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home. For example, those working in manufacturing or construction may attend the workplace, provided appropriate measures are in place to ensure that it is ‘Covid-secure’.
- To exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
- To meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one.
- To seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse).
- To attend education or childcare – for those eligible.
- All primary schools, secondary schools and colleges must move to remote learning, except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children. Early years settings such as nurseries, alternative provision and special schools will remain open and vulnerable children and children of critical workers can continue to use registered childcare, childminders and other childcare activities.
- Those who are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable are advised to begin shielding again, and letters will be sent to individuals with advice on what this means for them.
- All non-essential retail, hospitality and personal care services must close, or remain closed. Restaurants can continue delivery, takeaway or click-and-collect of food and non-alcoholic drinks, but venues will no longer be able to serve takeaway or click-and-collect alcohol.
- Essential shops and garden centres can remain open. Entertainment venues and animal attractions such as zoos must close, but the outdoor areas of venues such as heritage homes and botanical gardens can remain open, to be used for exercise. Playgrounds may also remain open.
- Places of worship can also remain open, but you may only visit with your household.
- Indoor and outdoor sports facilities including sports courts, gyms, golf courses, swimming pools, and riding arenas must also close. Elite sport and disabled sport can continue, as can PE lessons for those children attending school.
Full details can be found on the Government Website.
If you are unsure about the impact of lockdown on your business, or the support which is available, then contact a member of the Employment Law Team.