In an address to the nation on Sunday 10 May 2020, the Prime Minister set out the Government’s roadmap for ‘reopening society’ by modifying the current lockdown measures. Further detail was provided in a 50 page document presented to Parliament on Monday 11 May 2020, which seeks to balance health, economic and social factors whilst setting out a timetable for recovery.
You will likely have seen various aspects of the plan reported in the press and other forums, and in between talks of returning to work and discussions about face coverings, you may be wondering what the roadmap really means for your business.
We’ve done the leg work for you by setting out below 10 key points arising from the roadmap that your business needs to know about.
1. Planning for a new normal
First things first, the roadmap makes it very clear that coronavirus is not going away anytime soon, and that even after the pandemic is over, the world will not look the same. It is therefore important for businesses to continue to adapt to this new normal and to be agile in response to a changing global economy. In light of this, the Government has said that it will keep its response measures under review as the pandemic develops and may adjust or delay its timetable accordingly.
2. A new COVID-19 Alert level
The Government has established a new COVID-19 Alert level to help communicate the current level of risk to the public. Ranging from levels 1 (no COVID-19 present in the UK) to level 5 (material risk of health care systems being overwhelmed), the current level at any one time will help to inform when the Government moves on to different stages of its recovery plan and may therefore impact the timetable set out below.
3. Different measures across the devolved administrations
The roadmap makes it clear that measures to ease the restrictions may be different across the devolved administrations, therefore businesses should also refer to specific guidance set by the Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh Governments where relevant.
4. Workers should continue to work from home wherever possible
Despite projections of a ‘return to work’, the roadmap makes it clear that staff should continue to work from home wherever it is possible for them to do so. This will remain the overriding advice for employers ‘for the foreseeable future’.
5. Staff who cannot work from home should now go into the workplace if it is open
Besides those working for businesses which have been forcibly closed (eg restaurants, pubs and non-essential shops – see the full list here), from Wednesday 13 May 2020, staff who cannot work from home are now encouraged to travel to their workplace if it is open. Examples provided by the Government of relevant workplaces include food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. Hospitality and non-essential retail are specifically excluded.
Note that the rules around self-isolation in respect of any staff who have (or a member of their household has) symptoms, and those in respect of staff who are shielding, remain the same.
6. Open workplaces should follow the new ‘COVID-19 Secure’ guidelines
Workplaces which are opening should ensure that they follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines, which were published on 11 May 2020 and seek to ensure that workplaces are ‘less infectious’ . These have been developed for different types of workplaces to ensure that they are operating safely during the pandemic.
7. Employers should consider travel implications for their staff
Whilst some workplaces may be reopening if their staff cannot work from home, employers are encouraged to consider ways in which they can facilitate travelling for their staff. For example, this could be by changing shift patterns or staggering working hours so that staff can avoid peak travel times, or by offering additional car or bike parking spaces so that staff can avoid public transport altogether.
8. No earlier than 1 June 2020, non-essential retail premises may begin to open
In phases from 1 June 2020, the Government may permit non-essential retail premises to open provided that they follow the new ‘COVID-19 Secure’ guidelines. Further guidance is expected about this.
9. No earlier than 4 July 2020, further business premises may begin to open
From 4 July 2020, the Government may begin to permit further business premises to open, such as hairdressers, beauty salons, hospitality venues and leisure facilities, provided they meet the ‘COVID-19 Secure’ guidelines. Further guidance is expected about this.
10. Financial support schemes to be wound down
Whilst the detail is yet to be provided, the roadmap makes it clear that the Government intends to ‘wind down’ its economic support schemes as people are ‘eased back into work’. However, the Chancellor announced today that the furlough scheme would be extended until the end of October 2020. Whilst the scheme will remain in its current form until the end of July, from August it is anticipated that staff will be able to return to work part-time, with employers being asked to contribute to furloughed workers’ pay alongside Government support. Further guidance is expected by the end of May.