“Stay alert, control the virus, save lives” is the Government’s new rebuild plan message as the lockdown is relaxed ever so slightly. According to the Prime Minister, this is the same message as “Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives”, just with the insertion of “as much as possible” after “stay at home”.
Many have criticised the Government for being vague in their initial announcements over the last few days, but it was always going to be a balancing act between staying safe and opening up the economy so that there is something to return to when the Government feels that it is safe enough to step out into the “new normal”. We’ve started with baby steps and we have been given the clear indication that the phased relaxation of lockdown will continue with more baby steps as the months go by, with the size of those steps dependent upon a number of factors including the “R” (basic reproduction) number for the COVID infection staying below one.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday night, new guidance was issued on Monday night entitled “Staying alert and safe (social distancing)”. Workers “should travel to work … where you cannot work from home and your workplace is open”, but try to avoid public transport wherever possible. If public transport is used, face coverings are recommended.
Employers should ensure “workplaces should be set up to meet the new COVID-19 secure guidelines” and those with more than 50 staff are expected to publish their COVID risk assessments (carried out in consultation with staff representatives) online. It’s still the case that “workplaces should, where possible, ensure employees can maintain a two-metre distance from others, and wash their hands regularly”. One way systems and separate entry/exit doors (to which we’ve become accustomed in supermarkets) and staggered start/finish times should be considered. Clearly, this will be easier for some workplaces than others. All workplaces will require some form of deep clean and an everlasting supply of hand sanitiser to keep the re-emergence of the virus at bay. Office equipment used by multiple individuals will need to be wiped down regularly, together with door handles and other frequent touch points.
On Tuesday this week, the Chancellor confirmed an extension of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until the end of October 2020. At first there will be no changes to the scheme up to the end of July 2020. After that, it appears that it will be possible for furloughed employees to return to work part time whilst remaining furloughed part-time. Further details of the arrangements from August will be published later this month, but will include a requirement for employers to contribute to the cost of furlough pay in some way.
In the meantime, I’ve updated our factsheet on the CJRS again.
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