On Sunday 10th May Boris Johnson announced the Government update in taking steps to recover from the global pandemic of Covid19. An outline of these phases and how they may affect your business is below.
If we can’t do it by these dates and if the alert level won’t allow it, we will simply wait and go on until we have got it right. We will come back from this devilish illness. We will come back to health and robust health. And though the UK will be changed by this experience, I believe we will be better than ever before, resilient, more innovative, more dynamic, but also more generous and more sharing.
Boris Johnson Sunday 10th May 2020
The Government update highlighted the plan to drive their ongoing social structure by data, science and public health. Primarily monitoring the “R” (the effective reproduction number). Put simply, the “R” represents the number of people an infected person could spread the virus to. Most importantly, this figure must remain below 1 to continue to a stable level of recovery. Consequently, anything over 1 can cause a spike of cases due to exponential growth and can cause problems for the economy in the long term.
Image courtesy of bbc.co.uk
The main objective is to restore livelihood and freedom while preventing the second wave of this pandemic. As a result, the only way to do this successfully is to reopen society safely, and when Government guidelines deem it safe to do so.
After half term (by the earliest of 1st June) the Government update implemented a plan for the phased reopening of shops and primary students back in schools. Firstly focussing on reception years and then years 1 and 6.
Secondary students facing exams next year are assured they will receive additional time with teachers (before the summer holidays) to support their education.
Since the outbreak of Covid19, we have been at level 4. So, after successful implementation of Step 1, now is the time to implement a transition into level 3.
Image courtesy of gov.uk
After successfully introducing Step 1 by increasing exercise to more than once a day and opening outdoor spaces, we move to Step 2 as per the Government update details. In addition, if there are no signs of showing an increase in the “R”, the phased reopening of schools and non-essential retail will begin.
Furthermore, a review of scientific advice and data to support it (by the earliest of July) we could see hospitality and other public spaces reopening.
Image courtesy of gov.uk
To date, those being affected by CoronaVirus in the UK alone stands at approximately 4% of the population. Consequently, businesses are urged to operate in new ways to ensure safety in the workplace. As a result, Boris Johnson stated that all business owners have a role to play in keeping the “R” down and to ensure employees follow rules to help control the virus. Subsequently, this is by staying alert and bringing in new measures.
Further to the Government update on Sunday, an additional live update was issued Monday 11th May 2020. The key things to note:
- Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are keeping to the rules of “stay home” despite the new guidelines being introduced throughout England
- We are advised to wear face masks when out in public if a 2-metre safe distance is not possible
- Ability to meet one person from outside your household in an outdoor space. Most importantly, providing social distancing measures are in place. Confirmed by Sir Patrick Vallance (Chief Scientific Advisor) that the virus is less likely to be spread in an outdoor space
- Allowed to work in the office (if employers deem it safe to do so), but only if you are unable to work from home
- Businesses need to ensure their workplace is “Covid-Safe”
- Those who can return to work but have no childcare available, are advised to remain working from home if possible
- Teachers and schools were paid tribute for their efforts in caring for children of key and essential workers. Subsequently, parents were urged to allow their children to return to school when statistics deem it safe to do so
- Boris Johnson acknowledged there may never be a cure. However, The Oxford Project is continuing to make positive steps to create a vaccine through their clinical trials. Likewise, the urge is for all countries to come together to find a resolution by pooling their scientific knowledge
- Over 70’s are still labelled as a “vulnerable group” and have been recommended to remain vigilant with original advice; stay home and only leave the house if absolutely necessary
- New fines are in place for those breaking the Government rules and have been increased up to £3000
- Furlough increased to October with government assistance of 60% salaries from the end of July
The Government update is simple
If the infection rate goes up as we transition out of lockdown, the road map as outlined above will take longer to implement. Therefore businesses need to be prepared to keep the risk of transmission to a minimum over a longer time frame.
As a result, the plan is to take small actionable steps towards normality while continually insisting on safety when returning to work. However, the emphasis is collectively beating the virus and ensuring the health of staff. To clarify, this can be achieved by cautiously avoiding accelerating out of lockdown. Primarily by thinking about not only how we tackle this virus, but any subsequent viruses that should arise.
You can download this official Government Compliance Notification to show you are taking actionable steps to ensure the workplace is safe for employees to return to work.
Click to print and download.
Employers are advised to:
- Create a risk assessment for anyone entering business premises – this is a legal obligation. However, anyone with less than 5 employees is not legally obliged
- Ensure 2-metre distance. But where this is not possible stand side-to-side or back-to-back
- Do not use PPE in the workplace unless absolutely necessary. Most importantly, by doing so, if not required, we run the risk of there being a shortage for NHS staff
- Stagger breaks, arrival times and departures to ensure minimal people are in contact with each other
- Try to avoid public transport where possible and use other methods of transport
- Reduce van capacity and install screens (safely) if necessary
- Follow cleaning and hygiene rules
- If an employee doesn’t feel safe returning to work, the Union have suggested all employers should actively show the steps taken to ensure their safety and to regularly instigate conversations to support employees
- All businesses will be randomly spot-checked to ensure compliance when returning to work
Tuesday 12th May Update
Currently, the same rules apply following the news that 32,692 deaths have been documented in the UK since Covid19:
- Limit contact with people
- Ensure social distancing compliance
- Wash hands regularly
- Anyone with symptoms must self isolate, including their entire household
- Brace for a staged reopening following government guidelines. However, based on the recent Government updates, the UK endeavour to progress into level 3. While taking careful steps to avoid a disastrous 2nd wave of the virus. As a result, to avoid this catastrophe, the Government have invested £14 million to support NHS staff.
The Government continue to reiterate that job retention is paramount to the success of the UK economy. Currently, they are supporting 7.5 million people while continuing the furlough scheme throughout all sectors. Consequently, maintaining awareness and ensuring that flexibility is paramount is the key goal. Most importantly, the furlough scheme will continue to be available in its current state (80% salary) until the end of July and then from July to October, this figure will lower to 60%. However, this is on the pretence that employers will subsidise the balance to support their staff; to keep each other safe and financially supported. Also including a 1-year holiday break from business rates if required. However, If you are unable to contribute to the furlough scheme once it is lowered after July, more details at the end of May will follow from the Chancellor.
Companies and care homes have categorically stated they are not receiving enough funding. Likewise, anyone in this position should enquire directly to their bank to see if they are eligible for grants and loans. Alternatively, you can check here to see if you are eligible for government support.
The Government update clearly stated they have a framework in place to support businesses on returning to work. Most importantly, with a duty to keep employers and employees safe. Therefore, if employers are in doubt, they should contact HSE. Equally, if employees need advice, they should speak with their employers and HR representatives. Subsequently, if you continue to face disputes, you should contact The Health & Safety Executive.
There are penalties, inspectors and enforcement notices that will be issued for those not following guidelines. In particular, if an employer prohibits and breaches Government Guidelines then prosecution will be enforced.
You can ensure your business is working safely following the below guidelines from gov.uk.