COVID - End of Lockdown?

This was a week of mixed messages from the Government. Indeed, Boris’s message on Sunday night was of itself somewhat contradictory; as has been highlighted by the press and social media lampoonery. Notwithstanding, we have seen a relaxation of lockdown rules and the first tentative steps back to something like life-before-Covid have been taken.

The extension of the job retention, or furlough scheme, to the end of October, as announced by Rishi Sunak on Tuesday, confirms that the return to work will be a gradual one. True to the almost customary “Game of Thrones style” of such announcements, we must tune-in later to discover what happens next in this ongoing saga; specifically, at the end of May.

A 5-point plan accompanied the return to work message, the key component being that we should continue to work from home if we are able to. Relaxation was mostly granted to those industries where home-working is impractical, namely manufacturing and construction. Organisations in these industries must, in consultation with workers and unions where appropriate, conduct a Covid-19 risk assessment and publish it on their website.

The plan also re-iterated that the social distancing rules that we have come to know and love should continue to be observed, such as the 2-metre rule. Other points include taking practical measures to reduce the potential for spreading the virus such as implementing one-way systems, changing workplace layouts and introducing shift systems.

The 5-point plan can be found on the Government website at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-guidance-launched-to-help-get-brits-safely-back-to-work and the BBC have an excellent video 3 minute video of the steps that a manufacturing company in Wales has taken to safely enable staff to return to the workplace and restart production. Watch it here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/business-52624288/coronavirus-how-to-run-a-factory-during-a-pandemic

We strongly advise that everyone who is asked to return to work undergoes some kind of “re-boarding” procedure so that ground rules and expectations can be clearly communicated. Individuals should have a return-to-work interview with their line manager to assess their readiness to return, physically and mentally and emotionally. In addition, teams should have a group meeting so that new practices are agreed and any concerns aired. There are plenty of online platforms to facilitate this such as Zoom, Teams or Google Hangouts. If all else fails, a meeting in a large open space with distance demarcation might be the answer.

In addition to the 5 point plan, the Government also published guidance for safe working practices for eight different workplace environments. These are:

  • Construction and other outdoor work
  • Factories, plants and warehouses
  • Labs and research facilities
  • Offices and contact centres
  • Other people's homes
  • Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  • Shops and branches
  • Vehicles

Under Section 44 of the Employments Rights Act, workers have a right to withdraw from and to refuse to return to a workplace that is unsafe or represents a real risk of serious and imminent danger which they could not be expected to avert. By complying fully with the Government guidance, employers should be able to overt any such claims. Remember though that many businesses will have multiple environments to take into consideration.
Full details are on the Government website at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19

As usual we remain available for advice and support throughout the Coronavirus crisis. We have also recently added a Covid-19 page to our website which we will endeavour to keep updated with relevant news and information. In the meantime you can call us on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.