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Employment guidance from 13 May 2020

View profile for Julie Temple
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Employment guidance from 13 May 2020

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on 10 May 2020, guidance was issued late on 11 May 2020:

Our plan to rebuild - The UK government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy 

New guidance launched to help Brits safely back to work 

Working safely during Coronavirus COVID-19 

Within the government’s ‘Our plan to rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy’ what it says about a return to work can be summarised as: 

  • workers should continue to work from home where possible for the foreseeable future
  • workers who cannot work from home should work at their workplace if it is open
  • hospitality and nonessential retail are to remain closed 
  • workplaces should follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines 
  • anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, remain at home and not go to work

This guidance is to apply in England only, from 13 May 2020.

What is COVID-19 Secure?

Sector-specific guidance has been released, with eight guides covering specific types of workplace:

Businesses should engage with their own health and safety specialists to consider and implement this guidance. The following key points are consistent regardless of the workplace:

  • Work from home, if you can. For those who cannot work from home, and whose workplace is not closed, go to work after speaking with their employer about when their workplace will open.
  • Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in consultation with workers or trade unions, with a recommendation to publish results of risk assessments on the website and an expectation businesses with over 50 employees will do so.
  • Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible. This might require (as examples only) re-design of workspaces, staggering start times, one way systems, using more entrances and exits and changing layouts in break rooms.
  • Otherwise manage transmission risk. For example, barriers could be used in shared spaces. Shift patterns and fixed teams could be used to minimise numbers of people in contact with each other. Ensure colleagues are facing away from each other.
  • Reinforcing cleaning processes. Cleaning should be more frequent with particular focus on high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Provision of handwashing facilities/sanitisers at entry and exit points.

Employers can download a notice to display to show they have followed the guidance.

So it remains, businesses must consider: 

  • If they are required to remain closed
  • If not, who cannot carry out their work from home and could attend work and observe social distancing (taking into account the guidance for the workplace type or types)

These questions cannot, and should not, be made in isolation. Organisations will need to consider who can practically return to the workplace with other responsibilities they might have as the decision trees below outline.

Options for business and their employees

Before potentially bigger, tougher and longer term decisions have to made, the decision trees below will should help with the more immediate questions:

  • Can, and should, someone return to the workplace?
  • If not, what are the options?

Further details are available on the government’s website:

Further businesses and premises to close 

Full guidance on staying and home and away from others 

Our plan to rebuild - the UK government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy 

Returning to the new normal and coming back stronger

The lockdown is starting to lift and businesses must start to plan its ‘new’ normal. Inevitably, there will be tough decisions and challenges ahead. For example, there may be a need to: 

  • flexible working requests
  • restructure the workforce
  • make redundancies as a result of forced used of technology and/or reduced levels work
  • recruit due to increased work and/or making the most of opportunities that have presented themselves

I’m working from home, but available to talk if you need me. If you have a question, I’d much rather you ask it and we spend some time having a free chat, than not. 

There are enough things to worry about at the moment; don’t let that niggle be one of them – get in touch. I can be contacted on 01206 217318 or julie.temple@birklettlong.co.uk.


Birkett Long is running a series of weekly Wednesday webinars on a range of different subjects for individuals, families, and businesses. To find out more, visit our events page.

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