Unprecedented restrictions and a national lockdown across the United Kingdom to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)
In his address to the Nation this evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged UK Citizens to “Stay at Home, Protect our NHS and Save Lives”
From tonight, you can only leave your house for:
Shopping for basic necessities (as infrequently as possible)
One form of exercise per day, alone or with members of your household only.
A medical need to provide care or help a vulnerable person.
Travelling to and from work, only if absolutely necessary and only if you are unable to work from home.
These immediate restrictions include:
Closing all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores, libraries, parks, places of worship.
Banning all social events, except funerals
The Prime Minister confirmed that Police will have powers to enforce the new restrictions including the powers to disperse gatherings and issue fines.
What Do Coronavirus Restrictions Mean for Employers
This evening’s announcement fell short of mandating all non-essential businesses to close and by saying ” Travelling to and from work, only if absolutely necessary and only if you are unable to work from home” caused more confusion and anxiety for Employers and employees alike.
Whilst no clear definition of what constitutes an “essential” business was given by the PM during this evening’s announcement, we can look to the government definition of ‘Key Workers” for some guidance.
The government defines Key Workers as:
Health and social care
This includes but is not limited to doctors, nurses, midwives, paramedics, social workers, care workers, and other frontline health and social care staff including volunteers; the support and specialist staff required to maintain the UK’s health and social care sector; those working as part of the health and social care supply chain, including producers and distributers of medicines and medical and personal protective equipment.
Education and childcare
This includes childcare, support and teaching staff, social workers and those specialist education professionals who must remain active during the COVID-19 response to deliver this approach.
Key public services
This includes those essential to the running of the justice system, religious staff, charities and workers delivering key frontline services, those responsible for the management of the deceased, and journalists and broadcasters who are providing public service broadcasting.
Local and national government
This only includes those administrative occupations essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response, or delivering essential public services, such as the payment of benefits, including in government agencies and arms length bodies.
Food and other necessary goods
This includes those involved in food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery, as well as those essential to the provision of other key goods (for example hygienic and veterinary medicines).
Public safety and national security
This includes police and support staff, Ministry of Defence civilians, contractor and armed forces personnel (those critical to the delivery of key defence and national security outputs and essential to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic), fire and rescue service employees (including support staff), National Crime Agency staff, those maintaining border security, prison and probation staff and other national security roles, including those overseas.
This includes those who will keep the air, water, road and rail passenger and freight transport modes operating during the COVID-19 response, including those working on transport systems through which supply chains pass.
Utilities, communication and financial services
This includes staff needed for essential financial services provision (including but not limited to workers in banks, building societies and financial market infrastructure), the oil, gas, electricity and water sectors (including sewerage), information technology and data infrastructure sector and primary industry supplies to continue during the COVID-19 response, as well as key staff working in the civil nuclear, chemicals, telecommunications (including but not limited to network operations, field engineering, call centre staff, IT and data infrastructure, 999 and 111 critical services), postal services and delivery, payments providers and waste disposal sectors.
If your business doesn’t fall under one of the key worker definitions noted above it’s likely it would be defined as “non-essential” and may need to close. We await further clarity from the UK government on this specific point.
In the meantime, many Employers have already introduced their own measures in response to the Coronavirus outbreak, having introduced home working where possible, but for many other Employers who aren’t providing essential services, these more stringent restrictions may require them to temporarily layoff staff who cannot be redeployed to work from home.
So What Next For Employers?
We have already shared a variety of articles and resources to assist Employers to navigate through the Coronavirus crisis up to this point, but in light of these latest restrictions we can provide specific advice and support to Employers now facing temporary closure to ensure they implement staff layoffs correctly and understand how the Coronavirus Staff Retention Fund can be accessed. Call us on 0800 612 4772 or Contact Us via our website.
Additional Information and Resources for Employers
The COVID-19 pandemic is continually changing and the government advice for employers is being updated as the situation develops. Employers should keep track of the guidance for employers from the following sources: