Topic: Coronavirus

The UK’s road to recovery

By Richard Kleiner & Asgher Sultan

13 May 2020

The Government has released its plan on how it will get the UK on to the road to recovery. Here we look at the guidance and what it means for individuals and businesses wanting to get back to work. 

The Government has released its timetable for lifting restrictions. However, the timetable depends on successfully controlling the spread of the virus; if the evidence shows sufficient progress has not been made, delays or restrictions will be put back in place.

 

Step One. Wednesday 13 May.

Work
For the foreseeable future, people are encouraged to continue to work from home and businesses are encouraged to make every possible effort to enable their employees to work from home as a first option.

If workers cannot work from home and their workplace is open, they can travel to work. This includes businesses in food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces, such as hospitality and non-essential retail, that must remain closed.

Workplaces that are open should follow the guidance on how to work safely during the pandemic. We’ve summarised the guidelines here.

Travel
Everyone is encouraged to avoid public transport where possible. Where employees have to travel to work on public transport, the Government has released safer travel guidance which must be followed.

Face-coverings
It is now advised that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not possible, for example on public transport or in shops.

International Travel
The Government will introduce a series of measures and restrictions at the UK border, including requiring all international arrivals to supply their contact and accommodation information and advising them to use the NHS contact tracing app. They will also require all international arrivals to self-isolate for fourteen days on arrival into the UK, except those where exemptions are in place (e.g. people travelling from Ireland and France).

Future of Business support schemes    
The Government has released a range of measures to support individuals and businesses. However, these measures are not sustainable. The Office for Budget Responsibility has estimated that the direct cost to the Government of the response to COVID-19 could rise above £100 billion in 2020-21. 

Therefore, within these steps, the Government will also need to wind down the economic support measures. At the same time, they will also ensure that the UK's supply chains are resilient and the UK has access to the essential medicines, PPE, testing equipment, vaccines and treatments it needs.

 

Step Two. No earlier than 1 June 2020.

Schools
It is hoped that schools will begin to open for early years settings, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, although class sizes will be smaller. If feasible, the Government aims for all primary school children to return to school before the summer.

From this point, secondary schools and further education colleges will also be advised to prepare for face-to-face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils, who have key exams next year.

Businesses
Where non-essential retailers can follow the COVID-19 Secure guidelines, they may begin to open. This will be done in phases from 1 June. More information on the phased approach should be released shortly.

All other sectors that are currently closed, including hospitality and personal care, will not be able to re-open at this point because the risk of transmission in these environments is higher. The opening of such sectors is likely to take place in step three.

Transport
Local public transport in urban areas will be re-opened, subject to strict measures.

Events
Cultural and sporting events may be able to take place behind closed-doors.

 

Step Three. No earlier than 4 July

Businesses
The remaining businesses that are closed will be due to open. These include: personal care (e.g. hairdressers and beauty salons) hospitality (e.g. food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (e.g. places of worship) and leisure facilities (e.g. cinemas). 

These businesses will need to meet the COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

Some venues, where it is difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to open or only be able to open partly.

To facilitate the fastest possible re-opening of higher-risk businesses, the Government will phase and pilot re-openings to test their ability to adopt the new COVID-19 Secure guidelines

 

COVID-19 Secure

The Government has released guidance for employers on how to get businesses back up and running safely. 

To create these guidelines, the Government has consulted many stakeholders, firms, unions and industry bodies (to name a few) to develop best practice on the safest ways of working across the economy.

The guidance covers eight workplace settings with the five key takeaways being:

  1. Work from Home. Employers must take all reasonable steps to enable employees to work from home. However, for those where it is impossible, and the workplace has not been told to close, the Government is telling employees that they should go to work. In these instances, employers should speak to employees about how they are travelling to work and encourage walking and cycling where possible. 
  2. Risk Assessments. The Government is telling businesses to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with workers or trade unions. The Government is advising all businesses with over 50 employees to publish the results of their risk assessments on their website.
  3. Maintain two metres social distancing. Where possible, workspaces will need to be redesigned to enable two metre distances to be kept between people. This may include staggering start times, expanding bicycle-storage facilities, creating one-way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts.
  4. Manage transmission risk. This is necessary where people cannot be two metres apart. In these instances, employers should consider putting barriers in shared spaces and creating shift patterns or rotas to keep smaller, contained teams. If employees need to be close to each other, they should be seated side by side, or back to back. It is also suggested that well-ventilated areas reduce transmission.
  5. Cleaning. Evidence suggests that the virus can exist for up to 72 hours on surfaces. Therefore, workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects, such as door handles, tea areas and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points too (as well as advising employees to wash their hands regularly).

Employers have a duty to assess and manage risks to their employees’ safety. To access the specific guidelines for each sector, click on the below links.

  1. Construction and other outdoor work
  2. Factories, plants and warehouses
  3. Homes: for people working in, visiting or delivering to home environments
  4. Labs and research facilities
  5. Offices and contact centres
  6. Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery
  7. Shops and branches
  8. Vehicles
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