Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed that the Government’s Roadmap out of lockdown is on track and planned Step 3 easements will go ahead on 17 May. The PM has urged caution as the restrictions come into effect, meaning people can now meet up indoors, hug loved ones and sit inside pubs, restaurants and cafes.
The data shows that the government’s “four tests” for easing restrictions have been met. Infection rates are at their lowest level since September, while hospital admissions and patients in hospital continue to decrease – with levels now similar to July last year.
From the 17 May, the majority of the indoor and remaining outdoor economy can re-open, and gathering limits will increase indoors and outdoors. Guidance for close contact between friends and family will be updated, with people exercising their own personal judgement in line with the risks.
The Stay in the UK restriction will be lifted and people will be able to travel to green list countries, if they permit inbound travel.
The Prime Minister continued to urge caution. The aim of the Roadmap is to be cautious but irreversible and unlocking too fast, too soon, risks a resurgence of the virus. Mr Johnson said: “We have reached another milestone in our road map out of lockdown, but we must take this next step with a heavy dose of caution.”
Coronavirus restrictions: What you can and cannot do
What is changing in England on 17 May?
People can meet in groups of up to 30 outdoors
- Six people or two households can meet indoors
- Overnight stays will be allowed in groups of up to six people or two households
- Pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues can reopen indoors
- Adult indoor group sports and exercise classes can restart
- Indoor entertainment such as museums, theatres, cinemas, sports stadia and children’s play areas can reopen
- Performances and large events can restart, with limits on audience numbers
- Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas can open
- Hotels, hostels and B&Bs can reopen
- Holidays abroad to green list countries allowed
- Up to 30 people can attend weddings and more than 30 can attend funerals.
Twice weekly rapid tests have been available to everyone from 9 April.
- Everyone in England, including those without symptoms, will be able to take a free rapid coronavirus test twice a week.
- Alongside vaccine rollout, regular testing is at the heart of plans to reopen society and the economy, helping to suppress and control the spread of variants.
- Updates will be made to the NHS COVID-19 app in England to coincide with the universal testing offer.
6 people or 2 households can already meet outside, as of 29 March.
Guidance has been updated to include new advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and clarification on the rules for staying overnight with members of a support bubble. The rules on indoor mixing with members of a support bubble have also been clarified.
Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are no longer advised to shield but should continue to follow the guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and are advised to take additional precautions to protect themselves.
The advice to work from home where possible remains in place. Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements, and employers should take every possible step to facilitate their employees working from home, including providing suitable IT and equipment to enable remote working. Where people cannot work from home, employers should take steps to make their workplaces COVID-19 secure and help employees avoid busy times and routes on public transport. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.
[Updated 17 May]
From 17 May, mainland Scotland will move to level two restrictions – although it is “very likely” Moray will remain in level three after a surge in cases.
Most of the Scottish islands, except Arran, Bute and Skye, will move to level one on the same date. And a traffic light system will be introduced for international travel.
The changes, which will also allow pubs and restaurants to sell alcohol indoors, were confirmed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon:
- up to four people from no more than two households can socialise indoors in a private home
- up to six adults from three households can meet in an indoor public place (such as a bar)
- up to eight adults from eight households can meet anywhere outdoors
- hospitality venues return to “greater normality”, serving alcohol indoors until 22:30 – customers may be asked to book two-hour slots
- outdoor adult contact sport and indoor group exercise to restart
- cinemas, amusement arcades and bingo halls to reopen.
The first minister also said that the requirement for social distancing during meetings indoors or in private gardens would be dropped – but added that it was “vital to be cautious”.
A “more fundamental review” of physical distancing will be carried out in the next three weeks, which will look at whether there can be further relaxations in places like pubs and restaurants.
Ms Sturgeon said there were no changes at this stage to guidance on face coverings, but that their use in schools would be reviewed in the coming weeks.
In Wales, from 17 May:
- up to six people from different households will be able to meet indoors at pubs, cafes and restaurants
- in pubs, people who do not live together, or who are not in bubbles, will have to socially distance, with the rule being two metres apart
- cinemas, theatres and museums can reopen
- extra cash support for hospitality businesses still affected by COVID restrictions, to “support firms and safeguard jobs”, will be available to businesses such as pubs, clubs, restaurants and late-night entertainment venues.
Read about the rules on GOV.WALES.
In Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is due to ease restrictions next on 24 May.
You can read the guidance on current restrictions on nidirect.
Four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England
In February, the Government Government published a four-step roadmap to ease restrictions across England and provided a route back to a more normal way of life.
Addressing the nation in a Downing Street Press Conference on Tuesday 23 February, PM Boris Johnson said that each step will be assessed against four tests before restrictions ease. The PM emphasised that decision on each stage will be based on ‘data not dates’, and that the Government will move cautiously to keep infection rates under control.
This assessment will be based on four tests:
- The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.
- Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated.
- Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
- The assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by new Variants of Concern.
Mr Johnson also discussed the latest vaccine efficacy data, with Public Health England finding that one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduces hospitalisations and deaths by at least 75%. Analysis of the AstraZeneca vaccine efficacy continues, with promising early results.
The subsequent steps are set out as follows:
Step 2, no earlier than 12 April
Non-essential retail, personal care premises, such as hairdressers and nail salons, and public buildings, such as libraries and community centres, will reopen;
- Most outdoor attractions and settings, including zoos, and theme parks, will also reopen although wider social contact rules will apply in these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households. Drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances will also be permitted;
- Indoor leisure facilities, such as gyms and swimming pools, will also reopen – but only for use by people on their own or with their household;
- Hospitality venues can serve people outdoors only. There will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcohol, and no curfew – although customers must order, eat and drink while seated;
- Self-contained accommodation, such as holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households, can also reopen;
- Funerals can continue with up to 30 people, and the numbers able to attend weddings, receptions and commemorative events such as wakes will rise to 15 (from six).
Free rapid tests for all businesses
The Government has announced that, businesses of all sizes, including those with fewer than 50 employees, can now register to order free lateral flow tests for their employees. It points out that regular testing could be the difference between a workplace being able to stay open and operational, or needing to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak. It will form a crucial part of the government’s plan to gradually and safely ease restrictions. Find out more here…
Step 3, no earlier than 17 May
- Outdoors, most social contact rules will be lifted – although gatherings of over 30 people will remain illegal;
- Outdoor performances such as outdoor cinemas, outdoor theatres and outdoor cinemas can reopen.. Indoors, the rule of 6 or 2 households will apply – although we will keep under review whether it is safe to increase this;
- Indoor hospitality, entertainment venues such as cinemas and soft play areas, the rest of the accommodation sector, and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes will also reopen;
- Larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower) will also be allowed, as will those in outdoor venues with a capacity of 4,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower);
- In the largest outdoor seated venues where crowds can spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend (or a quarter-full, whichever is lower);
- Up to 30 people will be able to attend weddings, receptions and wakes, as well as funerals. Other life events that will be permitted include bar mitzvahs and christenings.
Step 4, no earlier than 21 June
- It is hoped all legal limits on social contact can be removed;
- Hope to reopen nightclubs, and lift restrictions on large events and performances that apply in Step 3;
- This will also guide decisions on whether all limits can be removed on weddings and other life events.
Advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) has been published to help households safely plan for gatherings in the home. The advice from SAGE includes how to make a household plan. This is a practical plan to help you prepare for social interactions in the home, which is agreed by all those who will be attending. Preparing a household plan will help to reduce your risk of transmitting COVID-19, says the document.
A checklist of ten points is summarised below:
- Consider whether meeting up is essential and cannot be postponed or replaced by safer forms of interaction.
Identify where in-person interactions could be replaced by online events or postponed until an appropriate future date, for example when in a lower tier.
- Consider replacing indoor events with outdoor activities or using larger spaces to host events.
Outdoor and larger spaces may provide more physical space and better ventilation compared to households with less space.
- Remember most infections happen indoors in private homes where people get close to friends and family.
Within the home we may be more likely to assume people and places we know are safe.
- ake special care to protect people who are particularly vulnerable to serious consequences from infection.
This includes older people and those with underlying health conditions. It is also important to reduce the risk of infection among those who have close contact with particularly vulnerable people, for example carers or nurses.
- Ensure people who are emotionally vulnerable have social support.
Special care should be taken to interact safely with people who are socially isolated, including meeting outside if possible, online or by phone.
- People who have very little contact with others are unlikely to be infected and may be able to meet together safely.
People who have to self-isolate or quarantine should not meet with anyone. If people have to self-isolate due to COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test, or quarantine because they have been in contact with a confirmed case, then it is essential to do so regardless of the occasion.
- Limit interactions to the same small group of people as much as possible.
This reduces the probability that someone will come into contact with the virus and limits how far the virus can spread if there is transmission. Meeting two groups of different people in the same week increases the risk of spreading the virus compared with meeting the same group of people twice. Limiting or avoiding interactions with other people in the 7-14 days before meeting, and reducing travel across different parts of the country can further reduce the likelihood of transmission.
- Limit the time spent together, especially if meeting indoors.
Indoor interactions should be restricted as much as possible and reserved for short duration quality time. Children should meet vulnerable relatives, including grandparents, outside where possible; brief meetings such as walking or playing outside are safest.
- Think about the space your event will take place in, and how people will interact.
Yo will need to think about cleaning, ventilation (fresh air) and the layout of rooms to allow for social distancing. Think about hygiene and any activities associated with the event, such as games or serving food. Transmission through airborne, droplet and surface contact routes can be reduced by following guidance on reducing the spread of COVID-19 in your household. Children should meet older or vulnerable relatives outside where possible. Brief outside meetings such as walking or playing are safest.
- Agree the plan with friends and family before the event so that everyone knows the safest way to meet.
A plan is likely to be most successful if it is agreed in advance. This includes explaining it to children. Examples of household plans published by SAGE are available.
Long COVID – Advice for employers and employees
For some people, coronavirus can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection. This can be called ‘post-COVID-19 syndrome’, ‘long-tail COVID’ or ‘long COVID’.
Long COVID symptoms could affect someone’s ability to work or cause them to take sickness absence.
ACAS has issued guidance about the issue, which points out that the usual rules for sickness absence and sick pay apply when someone is off work because of long COVID.
It advises that employers should be aware that the effects of long COVID can come and go. On some days the person might seem well, but on others their symptoms can be worse and they might need to be off work again.
If someone is off sick, they might feel isolated or need support to return to work. Employers should:
- Agree how and when to make contact during any absence.
- Make sure their work is covered and shared out appropriately while they’re off.
- Talk about ways to support them as they return to work where and when possible.
It may be necessary for an employer to make a reasonable adjustment to the workplace or to how an employee works, such as different working hours, in order to facilitate a return to work. The guidance includes an example of what a reasonable adjustment could look like.
The document also includes advice on how to address a situation where an employee is struggling to do their job. For example, a further occupational health assessment to find out if more support may be needed.
COVID-19 Winter Plan
It presents a programme for suppressing the virus, protecting the NHS and the vulnerable, keeping education and the economy going and providing a route back to normality. The plan sets out the Government’s approach to ending the national restrictions on 2 December.
The government’s three objectives are:
- Suppressing the spread of infection.
- Finding new and more effective ways of managing the virus and enabling life to return closer to normal.
- Minimising damage to the economy and society, jobs and livelihoods. And ensuring education is safeguarded in nurseries, schools, colleges and universities.
Over the coming months, the government will be able to rely less on economic and social restrictions and more on solutions provided by scientific progress. These include:
- Effective treatments for COVID-19.
These cientific advances provide the route back to normality, says the plan, and should reduce the need for economic and social restrictions in the spring. However, until these have been deployed, the government must continue to use other tools to suppress the virus.retail
The UK has published full details about its vaccination plans, setting out hopes to have immunised tens of millions of people by the spring. The document highlights the plans to have 2,700 vaccine sites across the UK.
By 15 February, the aim is to have offered a first vaccine dose to everyone in the top four priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI):
- All residents in a care home for older adults and their carers.
- All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers.
- All those 75 years of age and over.
- All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
This plan describes how the government have been able to build up a supply of vaccines and how it is planning to deploy them. The plan has four key parts:
There are three types of vaccination site:
- Vaccination centres, using large-scale venues, such as football stadiums and accessed by a national booking service.
- Hospital hubs, using NHS Trusts across the country.
- Local vaccination services, made up of sites led by general practice teams working together in already established primary care networks and pharmacy teams through community pharmacies.
Currently, 96% of the population in England is within 10 miles of a vaccine service. By the end of January, everyone will live within 10 miles of a vaccination centre. In a small number of highly rural areas, the vaccination centre will be a mobile unit, says the plan.
Thousands of people have joined the vaccination effort, says the document, with an 80,000 strong workforce recruited and ready to be deployed across the country. As well as current NHS staff, this includes drawing on the skills of those who have volunteered through the NHS Bring Back Scheme, those currently working outside of the NHS such as St John’s Ambulance and independent nurses and occupational health service providers.
As well as trained vaccinators, the COVID-19 vaccination programme will include a range of non-clinical support staff to ensure quick and easy access to a vaccine. For example, administration support, logistics, stewards and first aiders, as well as those who can log, record and manage stocks.
From 11 January, daily data for England will be published showing the total number vaccinated to date, including first and second doses. On 14 January and then on a weekly basis, NHSEI will publish a more detailed breakdown of vaccinations in England, including by region.
This leaflet is to help healthcare professionals answer questions on the eligibility and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine.
In February, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng called on businesses to continue supporting the national vaccine rollout effort as companies pledged their own initiatives.
Companies including IKEA, Timpson and the John Lewis Partnership are already stepping up, including offering paid time off for employees to receive their jab and volunteer, as well as offering workspace for vaccination centres
He paid tribute to leading business in the UK such as Marks and Spencer, Heineken and Boots who have made offers to repurpose vital workspaces, including warehouses, pubs and shops, to be used as vaccination hubs to support NHS staff in delivering the biggest vaccination programme in British history.
Business leaders are also allowing thousands of UK workers to take paid time off work to receive their jab, while also encouraging their staff, supporting crucial tasks such as checking patients in and guiding people at vaccinations sites across the UK.
Kwasi Kwarteng said: “It has been awe inspiring to see businesses lending their hand over the past few months to our heroic healthcare workers and clinicians – all playing their part to support the biggest vaccination programme in our nation’s history.
“Businesses and their workers have shown an indomitable spirit and leadership that will help us to defeat this virus, and I urge all businesses, no matter how big or small, to join us and do what they can as we reach the next stage of the rollout.
“I want to thank British businesses for their ingenuity and collaboration which will help guide us towards the light at the end of the tunnel, which is getting brighter by the day.”
People who are most at risk from the complications of COVID-19 are being offered the COVID-19 vaccination first.
In the UK, there are two types of COVID-19 vaccine to be used once they are approved. They both require 2 doses to provide the best protection. Both have been shown to be safe and effective in clinical trials.
Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. Most of these are mild and short-term, and not everyone gets them. Even if you do have symptoms after the first dose, you still need to have the second dose.
Although you may get some protection from the first dose, having the second dose will give you the best protection against the virus.
This leaflet, which has been updated, addresses the following:
- Side effects.Can you catch COVID-19 from the vaccine.
- Can you go back to normal activities after having your vaccine?
- What to do next.
- What to do if you are not well for your next appointment.
- Will the vaccine protect you?
- Can you give COVID-19 to anyone if you have had the vaccine?
- How COVID-19 is spread.
Frontline workers working in social care are more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 at work, says this guidance from Public Health England. Health care workers and those working in social care (particularly in care homes) are at much higher risk of repeated exposure to the infection.
Catching COVID-19 can be serious and may lead to long term complications. These are more common in older staff or those with underlying clinical risk factors. You can have COVID-19 without any symptoms and pass it on to family, friends and residents, many of whom may be at increased risk from coronavirus. Being healthy doesn’t reduce your risk of catching COVID-19 or passing it on.
Information about vaccination during pregnancy, and scheduling for second dose, has been updated.
This leaflet is for healthcare workers and includes information on the COVID-19 vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. Like all medicines, no vaccine is completely effective and it takes a few weeks for your body to build up protection from the vaccine. Some people may still get COVID-19 despite having a vaccination, but this should lessen the severity of any infection.
The vaccine has been shown to be effective and no safety concerns were seen in studies of more than 20,000 people.
Information about vaccination for pregnant women or women who may be pregnant, and scheduling for second dose, has been updated. The document is available here.
This guidance has been updated to reflect that there are now 2 types of COVID-19 vaccine to be used. It states that they both require 2 doses to provide the best protection.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), an independent expert group, has recommended that the NHS offers these vaccines first to those at highest risk of catching the infection and of suffering serious complications if they catch the infection.
This includes older adults, frontline health and social care workers, care home residents and staff, and those with certain clinical conditions. When more vaccine becomes available, the vaccines will be offered to other people at risk as soon as possible.
The guidance points out that the COVID-19 vaccination will reduce the chance of you suffering from COVID-19 disease. It may take a week or two for your body to build up some protection from the first dose of vaccine.
The information in this document is for all women of childbearing age, those currently pregnant, planning a pregnancy or breastfeeding on coronavirus vaccination.
It states that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been assessed in pregnancy, so it has been advised that until more information is available, those who are pregnant should not have this vaccine.
While the evidence so far reviewed by the MHRA raises no concerns for safety in pregnancy, because of the new formulation of this particular vaccine the MHRA wants to see more non-clinical data before finalising the advice in pregnancy.
It is standard practice when waiting for such data on any medicine, to avoid its use in those who may become pregnant or who are breastfeeding. This will be kept under review as more evidence becomes available.
These are the key points that should be considered until there is more evidence:
- If you are pregnant you should not be vaccinated – you can be vaccinated after your pregnancy is over.
- If you think you may be pregnant you should delay vaccination until you are sure you are not.
- If you are planning to get pregnant in the next 3 months, you should delay your vaccination.
- If you know you are not pregnant you can start the two-dose course now and you should avoid getting pregnant until at least 2 months after the second dose.
- If you have had the first dose and then become pregnant you should delay the second dose until after the pregnancy is over.
Women who are breastfeeding are advised to finish breastfeeding and then have the vaccine. If breastfeeding when the first dose is administered, the advice is not to have the second dose until breastfeeding is finished.
This advice provides information on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines when given in pregnancy. It is designed for health professionals to share with women who were vaccinated before they knew they were pregnant.
There is no known risk with giving inactivated virus or bacterial vaccines or toxoids during pregnancy or whilst breast-feeding. However, the COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been tested in pregnancy, so it has been advised that until more information is available, pregnant women should not routinely have these vaccines.
As a matter of caution, COVID-19 vaccine is therefore not routinely advised in pregnancy but there are some circumstances in which the potential benefits of vaccination are particularly important for pregnant women. This may include women who are at very high risk of catching the infection or those with certain medical conditions that put them at high risk of suffering serious complications from COVID-19 infection.
Some COVID-19 vaccines contain a different harmless virus to help deliver the vaccine – whilst this virus is live, it cannot reproduce and so will not cause infection in a pregnant woman or her baby.
Evidence so far reviewed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the UK regulatory agency responsible for licencing medicines including vaccines, has raised no concerns for safety in pregnancy.
Staying mentally well
The Staying mentally well: winter plan 2020 to 2021 sets out the support that will be in place in the immediate term to help support individuals to stay well during the second wave of the coronavirus and winter months ahead.
While this plan applies to England only (as mental health is a devolved matter), it notes that mental health remains a UK-wide priority and all 4 nations are taking steps to address the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are continuing to collaborate across the UK, share learning and ensure all nations can benefit from new initiatives where possible.
The plan points out that as little as 30 minutes’ exposure to natural light per day can improve mental health and help maintain a healthy sleep pattern. As such, the government therefore recommend going outside at least once a day, preferably to a natural environment or green space such as a park, during daylight hours to maximise these benefits. Public Health England’s ‘Better Health’ campaign offers tips to move more and get active outside.
Wellbeing and work
Employers play a crucial role in ensuring employees are supported to take positive actions to improve wellbeing at work, says the plan. The ‘talking toolkit’ developed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is a useful resource to help employers both to have effective conversations with employees on how to prevent work-related stress and then use these discussions to inform tangible actions in the workplace (for example, complete a stress risk assessment).
As we move into winter, guidance and best practice will be available to employers via the Mental Health at Work website.
‘Hands. Face. Space’ and ventilation
New film shows importance of ventilation to reduce spread of COVID-19.
A new public information campaign has been launched by the government to highlight how letting fresh air into indoor spaces can reduce the risk of infection from coronavirus by over 70%. The campaign, which forms part of wider ‘Hands. Face. Space’ guidance, sees the release of a new short film created with scientists and an engineer at Leeds University.
The film illustrates how coronavirus lingers in the air in spaces with no fresh air, increasing the risk of people breathing in infected particles, and how the risk can be reduced significantly by regularly ventilating enclosed areas.
Research shows that being in a room with fresh air can reduce your risk of infection from particles by over 70%, as fresh air dilutes the particles.
As people start to spend more time indoors, experts are recommending that people either:
- Open windows for short, sharp bursts of 10 to 15 minutes regularly throughout the day;
- Leave windows open a small amount continuously.
This is to remove any infected particles lingering in the room.
Additionally, it is advised that any household systems that use outdoor air, including kitchen or bathroom extractor fans, are used correctly and regularly as an additional method to remove infected particles.
Airing indoor spaces is particularly important when:
- People have visitors (when permitted) or tradespeople in their home, for example for construction or emergencies;
- Someone from a support bubble is meeting with another household indoors;
- A care worker is seeing a patient indoors;
- Someone in the household has the virus, as this can help prevent transmission to other household members.
WHO releses technical specifications of PPE for COVID-19
Published by Public Health England, this advice and information covers how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
It has been updated to reflect the national restrictions in place in England from 5 November.
Topics covered include:
- what can help your mental health and wellbeing
- challenges you may be facing
- advice for groups with additional mental health needs or facing specific issues
- people with a learning disability
- people with autism
- older people
- people with dementia.
The government’s ‘Staying mentally well this winter‘ plan sets out the support that will be in place in the immediate term to help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on people’s mental health and wellbeing this winter.
This CIPD guide outlines considerations and provides advice for employers, people professionals and people managers on how employee mental health can be supported as lockdown and social distancing measures continue, as employees continue to work from home longer term and we begin to face the consequences of the economic downturn (such as large scale redundancies).
It is not yet known what the mental health impacts of COVID-19 will be. There are many factors to consider including the impact of the lockdown and ongoing restrictions such as social distancing and self-isolation. Some employees will be fearful about contracting the virus, others will be anxious about family and friends. Many will have suffered bereavements during this time, often withot the chance to say goodbye or attend funerals. There will also be fears about job security, returning to the workplace (including using public transport for commuting) and financial concerns.
Some employees are working longer or more irregular hours and many are combining work with home-schooling and other family responsibilities, leading to a poor work-life balance. There are also potential mental health implications of furlough leave or the job support scheme.
Early research into the health impacts of lockdown including findings of fatigue, musculoskeletal conditions, poor work life balance, reduced exercise and increased alcohol consumption. In relation to mental health specifically, employees were reporting reduced motivation, loss of purpose and motivation, anxiety and isolation.
Employers will need to adapt a range of measures to support employees experiencing poor mental health as a result of COVID-19 and its effects on society and the economy. The guidance suggests that measures will need to range from supporting employees to regain an effective work-life balance and addressing fears about return to work, right through to support for severe mental health conditions. Employers, particularly those who have employees working in front line response roles, should act now to put necessary support in place.
Protecting vulnerable workers during the coronavirus pandemic
The HSE has released guidance which points out that employers have a legal duty to protect workers from harm and must consider the risk to workers who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus and put controls in place to reduce that risk.
The guidance addresses:
- Supporting workers in higher-risk groups;
- Accessing COVID-secure precautions;
- Clinically extremely vulnerable workers;
- Supporting clinically extremely vulnerable workers returning to work;
- Pregnant workers.
The higher-risk groups include those who:
- Are older males;
- Have a high body mass index (BMI);
- Have health conditions such as diabetes;
- Are from some Black, Asian or minority ethnicity (BAME) backgrounds.
While there are currently no expectations of additional controls specifically for these groups, employers must ensure that existing controls (social distancing, good hygiene and cleaning, ventilation, supervision etc) are applied strictly. Employers are advised to:
- Emphasise the importance of individual and wider workforce engagement, buy-in and cooperation to ensure controls are applied stringently;
- Have individual discussions with their managers around their particular concerns;
- Discuss the risk management measures put in place to minimise transmission to keep them, and others, safe;
- Explain the controls that will be put/are already in place to protect them and other workers.
Free download: Vulnerable workers – A Barbour guide.
Working from home
To help contain the virus, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so over the winter. Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so. Public sector employees working in essential services, including education settings, should continue to go into work where necessary. Anyone else who cannot work from home should go to their place of work. The risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely. Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk.
- Businesses selling food or drink (including cafes, bars, pubs and restaurants), social clubs, casinos, bowling alleys, amusement arcades (and other indoor leisure centres or facilities), funfairs, theme parks, adventure parks and activities, and bingo halls, must be closed between 10pm and 5am. This will include takeaways but delivery services can continue after 10pm (from 24 September);
- In licensed premises, food and drink must be ordered from, and served at, a table;
- Customers must eat and drink at a table in any premises selling food and drink to consume indoors, on site (from 24 September);
- Businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can ‘check-in’ at different premises using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details once the app is rolled out nationally (from 24 September);
- Businesses and organisations will face stricter rules to make their premises COVID Secure (from 28 September):
- A wider range of leisure and entertainment venues, services provided in community centres, and close contact services will be subject to the COVID-19 Secure requirements in law and fines of up to £10,000 for repeated breaches;
- Employers must not knowingly require or encourage someone who is being required to self-isolate to come to work;
- Businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where mandated.
- Customers in private hire vehicles and taxis must wear face coverings (from 23 September);
- Customers in hospitality venues must wear face coverings, except when seated at a table to eat or drink. Staff in hospitality and retail will now also be required to wear face coverings (from 24 September);
- People who are already exempt from the existing face covering obligations, such as because of an underlying health condition, will continue to be exempt from these new obligations;
- Guidance stating that face coverings and visors should be worn in close contact services will now become law (from 24 September);
- Staff working on public transport and taxi drivers will continue to be advised to wear face coverings.
See below for further advice on face coverings, when to wear one and how to make your own.
These measures apply to England – but there may be different rules if you live in an area under local lockdown and you should check those rules here. If you are in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, different rules may apply.
UK quarantine rules and travel corridoors
[Updated 7 May]
On 7 May, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that international travel can begin to safely reopen from 17 May, allowing people to go on foreign holidays to green list countries.
The ‘Stay in the UK’ regulation, lifted on 17 May 2021, means that leisure travel from England will no longer be illegal. However, the Transport Secretary has outlined how strict border control measures will remain in place as international travel gradually resumes. Different levels of restriction will be applied to individuals returning to England from countries based on the traffic light system set out by the Global Travel Taskforce.
People are being guided on where they can safely visit without needing to quarantine on return to England – starting with the additions of Portugal including the Azores and Madeira, Israel and Jerusalem and Singapore among others to the ‘green list’. They will still need to take a pre-departure test up to 72 hours before their return travel, and a single PCR test on or before day 2 of arrival into England – this can be booked in the same way as is in place now, through private test providers.
The ‘green’ list is currently very small, with only 12 countries and territories included. Some of these include: Portugal including the Azores and Madeira; Australia; New Zealand; Singapore; Brunei; Iceland; Faroe Islands; Gibraltar; Falkland Islands; and Israel and Jerusalem. However, many ‘green list’ countries will continue to place restrictions on UK travellers, including quarantine measures, so passengers are encouraged to check all requirements and FCDO travel advice before they book any foreign travel.
Given that the virus is still spreading in many parts of the world, people should not be travelling to amber and red countries for leisure. 10-day managed hotel quarantine requirements will remain in place for those permitted to return to England from ‘red’ countries, and quarantine at home alongside stringent testing will be required for those returning from ‘amber’ destinations.
Countries have been allocated by ministers according to the latest scientific data, so quarantine and testing requirements on return from those countries are appropriate to the risk of coronavirus and variants of concern.
The lists will be reviewed every 3 weeks, informed by public health advice, including the Joint Biosecurity Centre’s assessment of the latest data.
The government will also be publishing a green watchlist in the future, to provide an indication when a country is identified as a candidate for a changing country. All measures will be kept under review and further action may be taken to protect public health.
Countries will decide whether they require proof of COVID vaccination for entry, and it is the traveller’s responsibility to check individual requirements. If needed, people in England who have both vaccine doses will be able to demonstrate their COVID vaccination status via the NHS app from 17 May. Those without access to the app can request a letter from the NHS proving their vaccination status by calling 119, from 17 May.
Red list additions
From 12 May 2021, the Maldives, Nepal and Turkey will be added to the red list.
Reopening international travel, while maintaining 100% health checks at the border, means longer waits are likely – passengers from any destination will still be required to fill out a passenger locator form (PLF), and show proof of a pre-departure test negative result.
Border Force will be checking that arriving passengers have complied with current health measures, and passengers can help reduce delays by completing all necessary requirements before entering the country. We continue to urge airlines to carry out all necessary checks or risk facing fines of £2,000 for each passenger they carry who does not have a valid pre-departure test certificate, and £2,000 for each passenger who does not have a completed PLF.
The government will also continue with plans to integrate health measure checks into our border system and enabling checks to take place at e-gates in major ports during Summer 2021. Following the UK exit from the EU and the end of the Transition Period, UK citizens will be subject to additional checks upon entering EU countries.
The guidance document Red, amber and green list rules for entering England is available here.
You should follow separate advice if you need to self-isolate in:
A new Global Travel Taskforce aimed at supporting the travel industry and the safe recovery of international travel has been launched by the government.
The Department for Transport and the Department of Health and Social Care says it has been working extensively with clinicians, health experts and the private testing sector on the practicalities of testing international arrivals.
The next step is to develop an operationalised approach, which is why the government is creating the Global Travel Taskforce to work at pace with industry on implementation and to identify options to reduce the self-isolation period while protecting public health.
The taskforce will accelerate work to inform proposals on a future testing regime and develop options for how this could be introduced.
This will include looking at the feasibility of proposals based on a single test taken after a period of self-isolation, provided by the private sector and at the cost of the passenger. The taskforce will work with medical experts to better understand when a test should be taken based on the progression of the disease. The taskforce will also work closely with the private testing sector to ensure that testing for international arrivals does not impact on NHS capacity.
It will also explore alternative testing models, including pilots with partner countries to ascertain whether self-isolation could be undertaken pre-departure.
The taskforce, which will be jointly chaired by the Secretaries of State for Transport and Health and Social Care, will also consider other options to boost safe and sustainable tourism and business travel, supporting the sector in its recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
The roup will consult closely with partners from the aviation, travel, healthcare and testing sectors as well as the devolved administrations to implement measures to support the recovery of the travel sector. The taskforce is expected to put forward their initial recommendations next month.
The taskforce will consider:
- How a testing regime for international arrivals could be implemented to boost safe travel to and from the UK;
- What steps can be taken to facilitate business and tourist travel through innovative testing models and other non-testing means;
- More broadly, what steps can be taken to increase consumer confidence to support the recovery of international travel.
The current rules around the 10-day self-isolation policy remain in place.
Face coverings: When to wear one and how to make your own
This guidance has been updated (as of 22 September). Customers in private hire vehicles and taxis must wear face coverings. Customers in hospitality venues must also wear face coverings, except when seated at a table to eat or drink. Staff in hospitality and retail will now also be required to wear face coverings. Staff working on public transport and taxi drivers will continue to be advised to wear face coverings. Guidance stating that face coverings and visors should be worn in close contact services will now become law from 24 September.
People who are already exempt from the existing face covering obligations, such as because of an underlying health condition, will continue to be exempt from these new obligations.
The guidance has also been updated with information about penalty fines for not wearing a face covering. The police can take measures if members of the public do not comply with this law without a valid exemption and transport operators can deny access to their public transport services if a passenger is not wearing a face covering, or direct them to wear one or leave a service.
If necessary, the police and Transport for London (TfL) officers have enforcement powers including issuing fines of £100 (halving to £50 if paid within 14 days for the first offence).
According to the guidance, repeat offenders receiving fines on public transport or in an indoor setting will have their fines doubled at each offence. After the first offence, there will be no discount. For example, receiving a second fine will amount to £200 and a third fine will be £400, up to a maximum value of £3,200.
The guidance goes on to set out information about what face coverings are, their role in reducing the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19), the settings in which they are recommended, and how they should be safely used and stored. This information is based on current scientific evidence and is subject to change.
In England, you must continue to wear a face covering by law in the following settings:
- Public transport;
- Indoor transport hubs (airports, rail and tram stations and terminals, maritime ports and terminals, bus and coach stations and terminals);
- Shops and supermarkets (places which are open to the public and that wholly or mainly offer goods or services for retail sale or hire);
- Indoor shopping centres;
- Banks, building societies, and post offices (including credit unions, short-term loan providers, savings clubs and money service businesses).
You are expected to wear a face covering immediately before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave.
You are also strongly encouraged to wear a face covering in other enclosed public spaces where social distancing may be difficult and where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.
Face coverings are also needed in NHS settings, including hospitals and primary or community care settings, such as GP surgeries. They are advised to be worn in care homes. Individual settings may have their own policies and require you to take other measures.
Different regulations exist for wearing face coverings in different parts of the UK:
Published by the Cabinet Office, this guidance explains when to wear a face covering and how to make one.
- What face coverings are;
- Their role in reducing the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19);
- The settings in which they are recommended;
- How they should be safely used and stored.
Face coverings at work
UK not following France’s lead on face coverings in the workplace
Heath Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that the UK government is not considering making face coverings mandatory in workplaces, as has been adopted in France. Mr Hancock said current NHS Test and Trace evidence shows that people are largsely catching the virus when meeting another household, usually in one of their homes.
He told BBC Breakfast that while the government was “constantly looking at the scientific evidence”, the amount of people catching Covid-19 in workplaces was “relatively low”. France has made the wearing of masks in all “shared and enclosed” workplaces compulsory, with the measures due to come in from 1 September.
Face covering guidance for workplaces
The guidance says that there is no universal face coverings guidance for workplaces because of the variety of work environments in different industries.
Employers must make sure that the risk assessment for their business addresses the risks of COVID-19 using BEIS guidance to inform decisions and control measures including close proximity working.
As a general rule, it is important to note that coronavirus (COVID-19) is a different type of risk to the risks normally faced in a workplace and needs to be managed through a hierarchy or system of control including social distancing, high standards of hand hygiene, increased surface cleaning, fixed teams or partnering, and other measures such as using screens or barriers to separate people from each other.
These measures remain the best ways of managing risk in the workplace, but there are some circumstances when wearing a face covering may be marginally beneficial and a precautionary measure; this will largely be to protect others and not the wearer. If employees choose to wear a face covering, normal policies relating to occupational workwear and PPE will continue to apply.
As the pandemic continues, the World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its recommendations for the use of masks in areas where the virus is spreading.
In updates issued in November 2020, the UN body advises “that the general public should wear a non-medical mask in indoor (eg shops, shared workplaces, schools) or outdoor settings where physical distancing of at least one metre cannot be maintained.”
The advice adds: “If indoors, unless ventilation has been assessed to be adequate, WHO advises that the general public should wear a non-medical mask, regardless of whether physical distancing of at least one metre can be maintained.”
Use of face coverings in construction during coronavirus
The Construction Leadership Council has updated its guidance on wearing face coverings on site. (29 September)
It now recommends that masks are worn where workers on site are not required to wear Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) and their workplace (which may include welfare and changing facilities, office or meetings rooms) meets all of the following criteria:
- An enclosed space;
- Where social distancing isn’t always possible;
- Where they come into contact with others they do not normally meet.
Face coverings must also be worn in site canteens except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
Exemption cards or badges
Guidance has been updated with information about face mask exemptions. Some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering. This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.
Also available are printable exemption cards:
- Exemption from face covering badge (for mobile phone;
- Exemption from face covering badge;
- Exemption from face covering card.
Medical and fabric masks: Who wears what when?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a video outlining when medical masks and fabric masks should be worn in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Settings where face coverings must be legally worn in Scotland is expanding to include certain indoor public places such as cinemas, galleries, museums and banks, from Saturday 8 August.
Further rules for the hospitality sector, including the introduction of new statutory guidance, have been announced to increase compliance and keep the sector safely open.
While the new guidance won’t come into effect until Friday 14 August, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has emphasised that the hospitality industry should already be doing the right thing, and if not then they should start now.
Hospitality premises should be collecting customer contact details for Test and Protect. Tables should be pre-booked where possible, with no queueing. There should be no background music and TVs should be muted to reduce the need for people to shout or lean in to each other, and no more than three households at a time should be meeting in a group.
From Friday 14 August, it will be mandatory to collect contact details of customers in a range of hospitality and public settings.
Face shields may be used but only if they are worn in addition to a face covering. While exemptions to face coverings will apply, the new settings face coverings must now be worn in will include:
- Any premises open to members of the public and used for the retail sale or hire of goods or services. This now includes: shops; takeaway restaurants; estate agents; and beauty parlours. This does not extend to hospitality premises such as sit-in cafes and restaurants;
- Aquariums, indoor zoos or visitor farms, and any other indoor tourist, heritage or cultural site;
- Banks, building societies and credit unions;
- Community centres;
- Crematoriums and funeral directors premises;
- Libraries and public reading rooms;
- Museums and galleries;
- Places of worship;
- Post offices;
- Storage and distribution facilities, including collection and drop off points.
The Scottish COVID-19 Workbook has also been published. It brings into one place advice on how local and national public health agencies will provide support to prevent virus spread, together with advice on outbreak management.
Alongside the workbook the government will publish ‘Sector Advice Cards’ that details how different sectors can take action to prevent the spread of the virus, avoid outbreaks, reporting and helping to manage outbreaks.
The Cabinet Office has issued optional badges that can be used to show that the carrier may have difficulties or concerns in maintaining social distancing. The idea is that they can be used to signal to others around them that they need to pay attention and be given space.
The following are available:
lanning for social distancing guidance published
The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) has published the final version of its guidance SG02: Planning for Social Distancing at Sports Grounds. It has been published to enable sports grounds to effectively plan for the re-admittance of spectators. The Prime Minister has indicated this will be from the start of October.
The guidance has been developed to help practitioners to implement the Government’s Stage Five guidance, which sets out that social distancing will be maintained wherever possible when spectators are admitted to elite sporting events.
The document forms a supplement to the sixth edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (the Guide), published in 2018. It has been drawn up to assist the management of sports grounds who are considering the possibility of, or who are actively planning for, the re-introduction of spectators to their ground under social distancing.
It also contains guidance on a range of measures recommended for the protection of all people present at a ground during an event against the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
For grounds in England, the advice in this Supplementary Guidance seeks to prepare management for the move towards the UK Government’s Stage Five, also known as ‘Return to competition: safe return of spectators’. This follows on from the previous four stages, each of which has helped elite sport to recover in phases from complete lockdown to a return to competition.
COVID-19: guidance on shielding and protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable
This guidance is for adults and children in England who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
It has been updated following the pausing of shielding advice in England. There is specific guidance on what will happen if there is a local lockdown in your area.
What has changed:
- You do not need to follow previous shielding advice;
- You can go to work as long as the workplace is Covid-secure, but should carry on working from home wherever possible;
- Clinically extremely vulnerable children should attend education settings in line with the wider guidance on reopening of schools and guidance for full opening: special schools and other specialist settings;
- You can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low;
- You can visit businesses, such as supermarkets, pubs and shops, while keeping 2 metres away from others wherever possible or 1 metre, plus other precautions;
- You should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and that you maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace
- You will no longer receive free food parcels, medicine deliveries and basic care from the National Shielding Service.
The HSE has issued a COVID-19 risk assessment template for organisations to use in order to protect workers and others from coronavirus.
It says that organisations must:
- Identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus;
- Think about who could be at risk;
- Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed;
- Act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk.
Workers and their representatives must be consulted during the process, to explain the measures being taken to them. They can also provide valuable information on how the risks could be controlled.
The document can be used to help ensure everything has been covered in order to keep workers and others safe. Once the risk assessment is completed, you will also have to monitor to make sure that what you have put in place is working as expected.
During the news conference at Downing Street, on Friday 17 July, the PM said: “We’re going to give employers more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely. That could mean continuing to work from home, which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees. Or it could mean making workplaces safe.”
The BBC has put together an interactive guide on what the future might look like.
The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy: New chapter added
The Government’s strategy document describes the progress the UK has made to date in tackling the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and sets out the plans for moving to the next phase of its response to the virus.
A new chapter has been added: The Next Chapter in our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Strategy.
This additional chapter to the recovery strategy sets out the next stages of the plan. It looks ahead to the coming months, covering the tools that will be used to suppress the virus, the challenges that winter will bring and how the government is preparing for these, and our ambition for continuing to reopen the economy and society when it is safe to do so.
In summary, areas covered in the document include:
Suppressing the virus
The ONS infection survey shows that the number of new infections and people with COVID-19 at any given time has decreased significantly since ‘Our plan to rebuild’ was published in May, and is now stable and low. The number of people dying each day from COVID-19 has fallen from a peak of 1,173 in mid-April to an average of 74 over the past seven days.
The government says it is now able to better to identify outbreaks at an early stage at local and regional levels, and have taken steps to ensure appropriate local intervention. Local outbreaks are identified and managed through continuous monitoring of the available data, using NHS Test and Trace and Public Health England, to help spot potential outbreaks early. They then work with local authorities to understand the situation in detail and take action. Different approaches are required according to local circumstances. In some places, outbreaks have occurred in individual premises, such as workplaces, so the response has only focused on those specific locations, whereas other outbreaks have required a greater level of intervention.
The CONTAIN Framework, published 17 July, sets out how local authorities and national Government will work together to manage local outbreaks. As of 18 July, local authorities have new powers to close specific premises, close public outdoor spaces, and cancel events.
Continuing the plan to rebuild
Good hygiene practices must be maintained, and this is essential says the guidance. Since 11 May the government has encouraged people to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces where they have close contact with people they do not normally meet. In England, face coverings have been mandatory on public transport since 15 June, and they will be mandatory in shops and supermarkets from 24 July.
There is now sufficient testing capacity so that everyone with symptoms – no matter what their age or profession – can quickly and easily access a test.
Over the coming months the plan is to continue building the NHS Test and Trace service into ‘a world-class operation in infection control.’ Government plans to increase antigen testing capacity to half a million tests a day by the end of October, with results for in-person tests coming back the next day.
To support these aims, a number of strategies are being pursued. For example, implementation of a targeted communications strategy to improve awareness of the service among priority audiences, including BAME communities, non-English speakers and at-risk groups; introducing backward contact tracing, to identify the source of a particular outbreak and improve understanding of how infection spreads around social, professional and educational networks.
Preparing for winter
There are unknown factors in how colder weather may impact the virus; there is some evidence that UV light means surfaces exposed to sunlight are less hospitable to the virus in the summer, and some outbreaks have occurred in cold, damp settings, such as meat-packing factories. As the weather becomes colder and days become shorter, it is expected that people will spend more time indoors, where the risk of transmission is higher.
There are also secondary risks. The pressure on the NHS and other health infrastructure is already higher in winter due to other seasonal illnesses, such as flu.
The Government is undertaking preparations to ensure readiness for the risk of a resurgence in the virus between November and March. For example; the auditing of critical winter stockpiles of equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure there is the stock needed. Work will continue with care homes to make sure they are prepared to keep residents and staff safe through the winter months.
This document provides an overview of NHS Test and Trace, including what happens if somebody tests positive for coronavirus or has had close contact with someone who has tested positive.
It has been updated to reflect that the 14-day isolation period is now 10 days.
Information is given on:
- How NHS Test and Trace helps fight the virus;
- How NHS Test and Trace works;
- The NHS COVID-19 app;
- Part 1: people who develop symptoms of coronavirus;
- Part 2: people who have had close contact with someone who has coronavirus;
- Support for people who are self-isolating;
- Customer logs and NHS QR codes.
COVID-19: Guidance updated to reflect COVID alert level information
The following government guidance documents have been updated to reflect guidance on new local COVID alert levels:
This is guidance for those managing council buildings. It signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these buildings. It has been updated to reflect the announcement on 4 January of national lockdown for all England.
vThe document signposts to relevant guidance on a range of different activities that can take place in these spaces, in line with measures to tackle COVID-19.
The guidance applies to all users of council buildings including visitors and councillors.
Many council buildings are also workplaces and should therefore be aware of their responsibilities as employers, says the guidance. Where people are not able to work from home, (for instance people who work in critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing) they should continue to travel to work/attend their workplace, says the guidance.
A COVID-19 risk assessment should be completed by each operator of a council building, civic building, town hall or organiser of a civic event in order to determine what action needs to be taken. This is in addition to any risk assessment which is already in place.
This guidance is for owners and operators of playgrounds and outdoor gyms to enable their use while minimising the transmission risk of coronavirus (COVID-19).
On 12 October, a system of local COVID alert levels was announced by the government. The guidance highlights that for areas where the local COVID alert level is high or very high, the additional restrictions apply.
This guidance is for the owners and operators of beach, countryside and coastal destinations during COVID-19.
In terms of the system of local COVID alert levels, the guidance sets out that if you live, work or volunteer in an area that is part of local COVID alert level – high or local COVID alert level – very high, additional restrictions apply.
This guidance focuses on the design principles for safer urban centres and green spaces. The Public Health (Coronavirus Regulations) (England) Regulations 2020 impose temporary statutory restrictions and are under constant review. The guidance contains information and examples of interventions that may be undertaken by the owners and operators of public spaces to keep people safe as and when the restrictions are relaxed, and urban spaces become busier.
It is primarily for owners and operators of public places including but not limited to:
- Local councils and town/city centre managers;
- Commercial landlords responsible for public places;
- Management companies.
This document provides a framework for identifying the issues associated with the use of public places in light of the need for social distancing. It focuses primarily on areas which are likely to have high footfall. It also includes practical interventions, which are temporary, for adapting and managing public places.
On 12 October the Government introduced a system of Local COVID Alert Levels. For those living, working or volunteering in an area that is part of Local COVID Alert Level – High or Local COVID Alert Level – Very High, additional restrictions apply.
Government strategy and workplace guidance
The NHS Test and Trace service forms a central part of the government’s coronavirus recovery strategy. Launching across England, the service aims to help identify, contain and control coronavirus, reduce the spread of the virus and save lives.
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will need to share information about their recent interactions. This could include household members, people with whom they have been in direct contact, or within 2 metres, for more than 15 minutes.
People identified as having been in close contact with someone who has a positive test must stay at home for 10 days, even if they do not have symptoms, to stop unknowingly spreading the virus.
If those in isolation develop symptoms, they can book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119. If they test positive, they must continue to stay at home for 7 days or until their symptoms have passed. If they test negative, they must complete the 10-day isolation period.
Members of their household will not have to stay at home unless the person identified becomes symptomatic, at which point they must also self-isolate for 10 days to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus.
NHS Test and Trace brings together 4 tools to control the virus:
- Test: increasing availability and speed of testing will underpin NHS Test and Trace;
- Trace: when someone tests positive for coronavirus the NHS Test and Trace service will use dedicated contact tracing staff, online services and local public health experts to identify any close recent contacts they’ve had and alert those most at risk of having the virus who need to self-isolate. This will be complemented by the rollout of the NHS COVID-19 App in the coming weeks;
- Contain: a national Joint Biosecurity Centre will work with local authorities and public health teams in Public Health England (PHE), including local Directors of Public Health, to identify localised outbreaks and support effective local responses, including plans to quickly deploy testing facilities to particular locations. Local authorities have been supported by £300 million of new funding to help local authorities develop their own local outbreak control plans;
- Enable: government to learn more about the virus, including as the science develops, to explore how we could go further in easing infection control measures.
The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that those having to self-isolate will be eligible for statutory sick pay if they are unable to work from home. This applies across the four nations of the UK.
The government has also commented that work continues on the NHS COVID-19 app following a successful rollout on the Isle of Wight. It has added that there has been a positive reception to the test and trace system on the island with over 52,000 downloads in the first week. The app, which will form a part of the NHS Test and Trace service, is due to be launched in the coming weeks once contact tracing is up and running.
NHS test and trace: workplace guidance
The government guidance has been updated to reflect the end of the national restrictions on 2 December 2020 and the reintroduction of the tiered system. Depending on the tier in which your business is located, you may or may not be allowed to remain open, and each tier has different requirements for different sectors.
Generally, this guidance sets out what to do if you or someone you employ is contacted by NHS Test and Trace, including information about self-isolation and financial support.
The role of employers
According to the guidance, the NHS test and trace service will help to manage the risk of the virus re-emerging as restrictions on everyday life are eased, as far as it is deemed safe to do so.
It stresses that it is vital employers play their part by:
- Making their workplaces as safe as possible;
- Encouraging workers to heed any notifications to self-isolate and supporting them when in isolation.
The document recognises that although this may seem disruptive for businesses, but suggests that it is less disruptive than an outbreak of COVID-19 in the workplace will be, and far less disruptive than periods in lockdown.
The NHS test and trace service is designed to support businesses and economic recovery by:
- Providing testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus, so that if they have been tested positive, they and their household member know to continue to self-isolate;
- Helping to stop the onward spread of the virus in the workplace and wider society, so that fewer people develop coronavirus and have to self-isolate;
- Enabling the government to go further in safely easing or lifting lockdown measures, as far as it is deemed safe to do so, thereby allowing the nation to return to normal as quickly as possible.
Some employers and third-party healthcare providers may want to introduce their own internal testing programmes outside of the NHS Test and Trace service. This guidance aims to help them ensure that their testing programmes are as reliable and effective as possible. It covers:
- Legislation, regulations and best practice;
- Virus and antibody testing;
- How to interpret test results;
- Next steps after a positive or negative test.
It is noted that the NHS Test and Trace service is for those who display symptoms of COVID-19 or who have been advised to take a test by a medical practitioner or public service. Employer and third-party healthcare providers wishing to provide a test to staff must not advise individuals without symptoms to get a test from the limited supply offered by the NHS Test and Trace service, but may offer alternative private provision, in accordance with this guidance.
Before deciding to establish a testing programme, employers are advised that they are clear on a number of factors, such as:
- Who the testing will cover – for example, whether this is all directly employed staff, or includes individuals working onsite, like contractors;
- What the focus of the programme is: staff with symptoms or without symptoms;
- How often staff will be tested;
- Appropriate facilities for carrying out the tests.
The section: Annex A: employer’s legal obligations has also been updated in line with updates to government guidance.
The NHS Test and Trace service:
- Provides testing for anyone who has symptoms of coronavirus to find out if they have the virus;
- Gets in touch with anyone who has had a positive test result to help them share information about any close recent contacts they have had;
- Alerts those contacts, where necessary, and notifies them they need to self-isolate to help stop the spread of the virus.
By following instructions to self-isolate, people who have had close recent contact with someone with coronavirus will be protecting their family, friends, colleagues and other people around them, and will play a direct role in stopping the spread of the virus.
This guidance, for employers, businesses and workers, has been updated to reflect the new legal requirements for designated venues to collect contact details and display official NHS QR code posters.
This guidance is for employers and workers on work absences due to Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Employees or workers may not be able to go into work because:
- They’re self-isolating.
- They’re clinically extremely vulnerable.
The guidance sets out the relevant legal framework around absence and the return to work.
People who may not be attending the workplace during the Coronavirus pandemic include:
- Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19.
- Anyone who’s received a positive test for Coronavirus and needs to self-isolate.
- household contacts (including an extended or linked household, or support bubble) of people who have symptoms of Coronavirus and are required to self-isolate.
- Household contacts (including an extended or linked household, or support bubble) of people who have had a positive Coronavirus test and are required to self-isolate.
- Other contacts of people with Coronavirus who have been advised to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace, by their local authority, or because their employer has asked them to self-isolate due to someone in the workplace testing positive.
- Anyone identified as clinically extremely vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from Coronavirus and has previously received a notification advising them to shield.
- People who must self-isolate having travelled to the UK – you may not have to self-isolate if you are travelling from somewhere on the travel corridor list or are doing a job that has a travel exemption.
It’s an offence for an employer to knowingly allow a person who is required to self-isolate to work anywhere other than where they are self-isolating (normally their home). This applies only when they’re required to self-isolate following a positive test, contacted by NHS Test and Trace or their local authority, or where they are required to quarantine after returning from abroad. Details of Fixed Penalty Notices are set out.
Anyone who develops COVID-19 symptoms should stay at home and self-isolate immediately. Anyone who is due to work outside of the place where they are isolating during the self-isolation period must inform their employer if they’ve:
- Tested positive.
- Been contacted by NHS Test and Trace or their local authority.
- Returned from abroad and are required to quarantine.
An individual can receive a fixed penalty notice of £50 for not doing so.
The guidance goes on to cover:
- statutory sick pay
- paid and unpaid leave
- redundancy when someone’s clinically extremely vulnerable
- equality act
- returning safely to the workplace
- employment rights.
Many measures require the development of new safety guidelines that set out how each type of physical space can be adapted to operate safely. The Government has been consulting relevant sectors, industry bodies, local authorities, trades unions, the Health and Safety Executive and Public Health England on their development.
To make workplaces less infectious, the guidelines promotes, for example:
- Keeping a distance between people outside their household;
- Keeping the hands and face as clean as possible. Hand sanitiser should be carried when travelling and applied where available outside the home, especially when entering a building and following contact with surfaces. Clothes should also be washed regularly, as there is some evidence that the virus can stay on fabrics;
- Limiting the number of people that any given individual comes into contact with regularly. Employers can support this where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to keep smaller, contained teams. Evidence also suggests the virus is less likely to be transmitted in well-ventilated areas.
This guidance is designed to be relevant for people who work within the visitor economy; for example people who operate or run hotels and other types of accommodation (there is also a separate hotels and other guest accommodation guidance, indoor and outdoor visitor attractions guidance, and guidance for people who run or manage spaces for business or leisure events and conferences. There is also a separate guidance document on pubs and restaurants for food settings.
In deciding what actions to take, an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment must be undertaken, at a business and site level.
The guidance covers:
- Thinking about risk;
- Managing your customers, visitors and contractors;
- Who should go to work?;
- Social distancing for workers;
- Cleaning the workplace;
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings;
- Workforce management;
- Inbound and outbound goods
This government guidance is for people who work in or run hotels and other guest accommodation.
The following sections have been updated:
- Managing risk (section 1.1): it is noted the local COVID alert level for an area will need to be checked, in order to see which level applies to the business and take into account any restrictions for Covid alert level: high or very high that may be applicable.
- Keeping customers, visitors and contractors safe (section 2): advice is set out on local restrictions for accommodation providers.
- Who should go to work (section 3).
It is noted that from 14 October, accommodation providers must take into account the government’s local COVID alert levels system that sets out information for businesses if an area local is placed under a Local Covid Alert Level. Further details of each alert level are given.
Published by Public Health England, this guidance covers the cleaning of environments outside the home.
It has been updated to include information on virus transmission and mitigations.
Regular cleaning plays a vital role in limiting the transmission of COVID-19, says the guidance, noting that surfaces should be wiped down twice a day, and one of these should be at the beginning or the end of the working day. Cleaning should be more frequent depending on the number of people using the space, whether they are entering and exiting the setting and access to handwashing and hand-sanitising facilities.
The relevant guide for each workplace should also be read (see below) as these contain specific actions for businesses to take based on these steps. Further guidance will be published as more businesses are able to reopen, says the government.
- Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment
Before restarting work you should ensure the safety of the workplace by:
- carrying out a risk assessment in line with the HSE guidance
- consulting with your workers or trade unions
- sharing the results of the risk assessment with your workforce and on your website.
- Develop cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures
You should increase the frequency of handwashing and surface cleaning by:
- encouraging people to follow the guidance on hand washing and hygiene
- providing hand sanitiser around the workplace, in addition to washrooms
- frequently cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces that are touched regularly
- enhancing cleaning for busy areas
- setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets
- providing hand drying facilities – either paper towels or electrical dryers.
- Help people to work from home
You should take all reasonable steps to help people work from home by:
- discussing home working arrangements
- ensuring they have the right equipment, for example remote access to work systems
- including them in all necessary communications
- looking after their physical and mental wellbeing.
- Maintain 2m social distancing, where possible
Where possible, you should maintain 2m between people by:
- putting up signs to remind workers and visitors of social distancing guidance
- avoiding sharing workstations
- using floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a 2m distance
- arranging one-way traffic through the workplace if possible
- switching to seeing visitors by appointment only if possible.
- Where people cannot be 2m apart, manage transmission risk
Where it’s not possible for people to be 2m apart, you should do everything practical to manage the transmission risk by:
- considering whether an activity needs to continue for the business to operate
- keeping the activity time involved as short as possible
- using screens or barriers to separate people from each other
- using back-to-back or side-to-side working whenever possible
- staggering arrival and departure times
- reducing the number of people each person has contact with by using ‘fixed teams or partnering’.
This advice is for those working in care homes on how to work safely during this period of sustained transmission of COVID-19.
The resource has been updated from the previous version of this document; changes include:
- the title has changed from “How to work safely in care homes” to better reflect the content
- changes to the section relating to care for people with learning disabilities and/or autism
- further detail added to recommendations including specification of surgical mask types (defined in consultation with HSE and MHRA).
The Welsh Government has introduced the Coronavirus Regulations imposing strict restrictions on gatherings, the movement of people, and the operation of businesses (some of which have been required to close temporarily).
Incrementally, as a result of regular review of the Regulations, an increasing number of these have been allowed to open again.
Businesses that are permitted to operate, or premises that are allowed to open, must do so safely in a way that complies with the Coronavirus Regulations, in addition to other legal obligations imposed on employers (such as health and safety legislation). To support businesses to work safely the Welsh Government has adopted five key principles.
- Care: health and well-being comes first;
- Comply: the laws that keep us safe must be obeyed;
- Involve: we will share responsibility for safe work;
- Adapt: we all need to change how we work;
- Communicate: we must all understand what to do.
This document is to help employers, employees and the self-employed working in construction and other outdoor work to understand how to work safely, taking measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus.
Also updated are the following guidance documents:
- Labs and research facilities: coronavirus workplace guidance;
- Working in or from a vehicle: coronavirus workplace guidance;
- Beauty, holistic and wellbeing services: coronavirus workplace guidance:
- Tattoo and body piercing services: coronavirus workplace guidance:
This advice from the CMO states that Welsh Government should support the public’s right to choose to wear face coverings in most settings. However, it is also noted that CMO advice continues to be that the evidence of benefits does not justify a mandatory or legislative process and that there would be potential dangers in taking such an approach in Wales.
The Coronavirus Control Plan for Wales sets out how the risks of coronavirus in Wales will be managed. It describes the different stages of the possible spread of coronavirus. It sets out what the response will be in different circumstances. It is a collective effort with everyone having a role to play; from businesses to local government, NHS Wales, Public Health Wales, the Welsh Government and the public.
The different stages are:
- New cases and clusters;
- Incidents and outbreaks;
- Local or regional measures;
- All-Wales measures.
The Plan details each of this stages.
- Starts with the approach to monitoring new cases across Wales, which provides the information we need to take the right decisions at the right time;
- Has a summary of the different phases of prevention and intervention. This starts with sustained changes in behaviour by maintaining physical distancing and good hygiene. It acknowledges that we must also intervene to manage and control incidents and outbreaks. This could involve increasing testing in particular places, closing specific premises, introducing wider measures across a locality or region, or (if other things prove ineffective) new all-Wales restrictions;
- Sets out the criteria for deciding whether to introduce local or regional measures to protect public health. This includes indicative options for intervention in those areas – and considers also how any restrictions will subsequently be relaxed. The exact combination of measures will depend on the nature of any local outbreaks, so the list is illustrative rather than definitive;
- Identifies the legal powers which public authorities in Wales have to respond at each level of response, as well as the roles and responsibilities of key actors;
- Describes the governance arrangements and highlight key roles and responsibilities of different actors in delivering this plan;
- Sets out the intended approach to explain what will be done. A great deal has been learned during the crisis about the need for effective communication across Wales and in specific places where issues emerge. Communications will be tailored for different groups and communities.
Lockdown restrictions in Scotland began to relax from 28 May.
A four-phase “route map” was published, aimed at restarting society while suppressing the virus. The document sets out the steps to reopen Scottish society, although it does not set exact timescales. It states that reviews will take place every three weeks as a minimum, to ensure Scotland is on track and to assess whether elements within each phase can be accelerated or need to be decelerated.
The four phases
Phase 1: Virus not yet contained but cases are falling. From 28 May people should be able to meet another household outside in small numbers. Sunbathing is allowed, along with some outdoor activities like golf and fishing. Garden centres and drive-through takeaways can reopen, some outdoor work can resume, and childminding services can begin.
Phase 2: Virus controlled. People can meet larger groups outdoors, and meet another household indoors. Construction, factories, warehouses, laboratories and small shops can resume work. Playgrounds and sports courts can reopen, and professional sport can begin again.
Phase 3: Virus suppressed. Meetings of people from more than one household indoors. Non-essential offices would reopen, along with gyms, museums, libraries, cinemas, larger shops, pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and dentists. Live events could take place with restricted numbers and physical distancing restrictions. Schools should reopen from 11 August.
Phase 4: Virus no longer a significant threat. University and college campuses can reopen in full, mass gatherings are allowed. All workplaces open and public transport is back at full capacity.
Read this complete guide to safe working in warehouses during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, in line with the UK Government’s advice, from SHD Logistics.
HSE to restart “proactive” inspections of construction sites
The move follows a government announcement of more cash for the organisation and prime minister Boris Johnson promising the body would carry out “spot inspections” to make sure businesses were safe places to work. However the head of the union representing HSE inspectors has warned the organisation remains too small, reports Construction News.
The safety watchdog stopped carrying out routine inspections after the lockdown announcement in March, despite sectors such as construction continuing to operate.
HSE to prosecute and lockdown eased in England
The HSE is prepared to use its enforcement powers when necessary and will also consider criminal prosecutions, its Chief Executive Sarah Albon said. She said she is aware of a small number of firms “not doing the right thing or not sure what the right thing is to do”.
Issued by the Scottish Government, the aim of this workbook is to bring into one place advice on how local and national public health agencies will provide support that helps to put in place the action needed to prevent coronavirus spread, together with advice on management of outbreaks.
It aims to aid management of the transmission of coronavirus by:
- Clarifying roles and responsibilities for: service restart and recovery activity whilst preventing the spread of COVID-19
- Setting out actions needed to facilitate the management of incidents and outbreak
- Supporting the co-ordination and planning of actions being taken as outlined in the route map out of lockdown
- Furthering shared learning during recovery.
The Workbook introduces the idea of Sector Advice Cards. These will be based on formal guidance documentation that has been issued by the Scottish Government, Public Health Scotland and other agencies. They will be designed to be used by those who have responsibility for an individual setting, as a single point of access to the key information on how to minimise the risk of an outbreak; what to do if someone reports symptoms of COVID-19 that may increase the chances of the virus being transmitted to others; and what would be expected of them if the local health protection team needs to act to manage a local incident or outbreak.
The COVID-19 Sector Advice card is designed for managers and employees to guide action to prevent the spread of COVID-19; to support workplace communications and training; and take action in the event of an outbreak.
Join leading lawyer, Simon Joyston-Bechal as he looks at:
- Managing difficult decisions relating to COVID-19;
- Could we be prosecuted for COVID-19 exposures?;
- Can we keep operating if we are struggling with social distancing?
- Working from home – how far do our duties extend?
- Statutory inspections – what if we are running behind?
- Returning to work…
Guidance published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is for employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating safely.
The ‘COVID-19 secure’ guidelines aim to help make workplaces as safe as possible and give people confidence to go back to work during coronavirus pandemic. The documents have been developed in consultation with approximately 250 businesses, unions, industry leaders as well as devolved administrations.
The new guidance covers eight workplace settings which are allowed to be open, from outdoor environments and construction sites to factories and takeaways.
Practical steps for businesses are focused on five key points, which should be implemented as soon as it is practical:
- Work from home, if you can
All reasonable steps should be taken by employers to help people work from home. But for those who cannot work from home and whose workplace has not been told to close, our message is clear: you should go to work. Staff should speak to their employer about when their workplace will open.
- Carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions
This guidance operates within current health and safety employment and equalities legislation and employers will need to carry out COVID-19 risk assessments in consultation with their workers or trade unions, to establish what guidelines to put in place. If possible, employers should publish the results of their risk assessments on their website and we expect all businesses with over 50 employees to do so.
- Maintain 2 metres social distancing, wherever possible
Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain 2 metre distances between people by staggering start times, creating one-way walk-throughs, opening more entrances and exits, or changing seating layouts in break rooms.
- Where people cannot be 2 metres apart, manage transmission risk
Employers should look into putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or fixed teams minimising the number of people in contact with one another, or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.
- Reinforcing cleaning processes
Workplaces should be cleaned more frequently, paying close attention to high-contact objects like door handles and keyboards. Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points.
A downloadable notice is included in the documents, which employers should display in their workplaces to show their employees, customers and other visitors to their workplace, that they have followed this guidance.
Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19): sector guidance
[updated 7 May]
Find out how to make your workplace COVID-secure.
These 14 guides cover a range of different types of work. Many businesses operate more than one type of workplace, such as an office, factory and fleet of vehicles. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe. Priority actions are outlined at the top of each guide.
Guidance for people who work in or run restaurants, pubs, bars, cafes or takeaways.
The guidance now includes information for Step 3 of the roadmap, covering:
- Serving customers indoors.
- Updated social contact rules (gatherings of up to 30 people are permitted outdoors; gatherings of up to 6 people or 2 households of any size are permitted indoors).
- Relaxation of rules around live performances, business events and soft play areas.
Guidance for people who provide close contact services, including hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattooists, sports and massage therapists, dress fitters, tailors and fashion designers.
It has been updated to add guidance for Step 3 of the roadmap; specifically:
- Saunas and steam rooms can reopen.
- Updated social contact rules (gatherings of up to 30 people are permitted outdoors; gatherings of up to 6 people or 2 households of any size are permitted indoors).
- You can provide reading materials such as newspapers and magazines in client waiting areas.
- You can provide refreshments in line with guidance for restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services.
- Guidance clarified on use of gloves for treatment.
This guidance is for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.
It has been updated to included guidance for Step 3 of the roadmap. At Step 3, gatherings of up to 30 are permitted outdoors and gatherings of up to 6 or 2 households are permitted indoors.
The guidance is for people who work in or run outdoor working environments.
Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.
This guidance for people who work in or run indoor labs and research facilities and similar environments.
Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people’s homes.
This guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses.
Guidance for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.
This guidance is for people who work or volunteer in heritage locations.
Guidance for people who work in or run hotels and other guest accommodation
This guidance is for people who work in performing arts, including arts organisations, venue operators and participants.
This guidance is for people who work in hotels and guest accommodation, indoor and outdoor attractions, and business events and consumer shows. It has been updated to include information about Step 3 of the COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021 (the roadmap).
No earlier than 17 May, Step 3 of the government’s roadmap will allow for (subject to the data and the four tests set out):
- visitor attractions and recreational venues can open both indoor and outdoor areas
- most indoor and outdoor entertainment venues can open to the public
- indoor and outdoor events can take place, but measures apply including following COVID-secure and social distancing guidance
- indoor and outdoor guided tours are permitted, but must operate within the legal gathering limits and follow COVID-secure guidance
- private hire coaches are permitted for a private group of a single household/bubble, and may also accommodate groups containing multiple households travelling together to the same destination or making the same journey (e.g. for the purposes of a leisure tour)
- all heritage railway services are permitted to operate
- private aircraft and hired self-fly aircraft are permitted for groups of up to 6 people or 2 household/bubbles
- self-drive day-hire of boats is permitted, within the legal gathering limits
- self-drive holiday-hire (where people make overnight stays) of boats is permitted for up to 6 people or 2 households/bubbles
- skippered boats can operate within the legal gathering limits
- domestic cruises (departing from, and returning to, UK ports) can operate, with restrictions on capacity.
The guidance also sets out other relevant measures, such as in relation to social contact.
Guidance for people who work in grassroots sport and sport facilities.
The HSE has put together a guide aimed at all employers and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people. It explains how you can protect people from coronavirus in your workplace, for example by putting in place social distancing measures, staggering shifts and providing additional handwashing facilities. The guidance may also be useful to workers and their representatives.
[updated 11 March 2021]
This research briefing from the House of Commons Library provides an overview of the rules surrounding COVID-19 and returning to work. It discusses the lockdown legislation, employer’s health and safety obligations and when workers can refuse to go to work.
It highlights the publication in February 2021 of the government’s COVID-19 Response – Spring 2021, outlining its plans for lifting restrictions in England. The Scottish and Welsh and Northern Ireland governments have published similar documents.
Health and safety
Employers have to follow a range of health and safety legislation. In summary, employers have to:
- Undertake a risk assessment.
- Set up safe systems of work, informed by the risk assessment.
- Implement the safe systems of work.
- Keep the systems of work under review.
Refusing to go to work
All workers have an obligation to obey lawful and reasonable instructions given by their employer. However, employees who refuse to attend the workplace because they reasonably believe that there is a serious and imminent danger have certain protections under employment rights legislation. The protections also apply if an employee takes steps to protect others from such danger.
Whether an employee has a reasonable belief will always depend on the facts. The fact that an employer is complying with the Government’s working safely guidance will be a relevant factor, although other factors, such as the employee’s vulnerability to COVID-19 will also be relevant.
The Government’s working safely guidance says that there are certain workers who should not be asked to attend the workplace, such as those required to self-isolate.
Employers must ensure that the measures they adopt do not discriminate on the basis of protected characteristics, including age, sex, disability and pregnancy.
Health and safety law offers special protection to new and expectant mothers who must be suspended on full pay if they cannot be offered work that is safe.
Issues with returning to work
Issues have arisen with the approaches to returning to work, including:
- The prospect that disagreements will arise between employers and employees over whether it is safe to go to work. Workers who live with or care for vulnerable people may also be concerned for their safety. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) say that these disagreements will be best addressed by discussion between employers, employees and health and safety representatives.
- Employees who refuse to go to work because of reasonable fears about serious and imminent danger are protected from detriments or dismissal. However, it is unclear whether this covers those who have fears about the safety of their commute.
- Some employers have suggested that they will introduce ‘no jab, no job’ policies. This could involve instructing existing employees to be vaccinated or making job offers conditional on a candidate being vaccinated. This could lead to discrimination claims from employees who cannot or who do not wish to be vaccinated.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): General guidance for safer workplaces
The Scottish Government has produced sector guidance to support a safe economic restart and ensure workplaces are safe. This guidance sets out the Scottish Government’s expectations for organisations that do not fall within the sectors that guidance is currently available for. It is noted that sector guidance must be consulted in the first instance.
Organisations need to consider mitigations to ensure workplaces are safe and the transmission of the virus is minimised. This guidance addresses five key areas, which organisations need to consider these to ensure workplaces are safe and the transmission of the virus is minimised:
- Training and compliance
- Risk assessment – involving the workforce in a risk-based approach to a safer workplace
- Workforce planning and support – supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not
- Operational guide and checklist – changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce
- Deliveries, distribution and visitors – protecting your workforce and those who come on-site
- The guidance emphasises the importance of undertaking robust and regular risk assessments with full input from trade unions or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe.
After a workplace risk assessment has been undertaken and measures to reduce the risk of transmission have been put in place, staff and their managers should use the individual risk assessment tool to identify the individual’s vulnerability level. Staff should be active participants in this risk assessment which uses factors including age, ethnicity, in addition to underlying health conditions to stratify risk.
It applies to companies where digital is a key component of the business; that is, businesses involved in the development of software or hardware, and covers sub-sectors such as cyber, data, infrastructure, and software engineering.
It came into effect on 21 August 2020 and sets out the Scottish Government’s expectations on what businesses of all sizes and sub-sectors need to consider as part of their planning for return to workplaces. The guidance emphasises in particular the importance of undertaking a robust and ongoing risk-based assessment with full input from trade union or workforce representatives, and to keep all risk mitigation measures under regular review so that workplaces continue to feel, and be, safe.
The five key areas companies should consider as part of their planning for return to the workplace and ongoing service delivery while minimising the transmission of the virus are:
- Assessing risk – involving the workforce in a risk-based approach to a safer workplace;
- Workforce planning – supporting those who should come to work, and those who should not;
- Operational guide and checklist – changing the workplace environment to protect your workforce;
- Deliveries, distribution and visitors – protecting your workforce and those who come on-site;
- Training and compliance.
This guidance came into force on 21 August 2020. It states that professionals working in the performing arts and those in formal training for associated professional careers, such as in Further and Higher Education, can use this specific guidance for training, rehearsal, recording, broadcast, pre-production, creative-learning related activities and performances without an audience now, and can pursue these activities in theatres and concert halls from Monday 24 August. However, it is noted that at the time of publication, performing arts venues cannot open to the public for live performances with an audience.
Non-professionals (meaning those participating in performing arts other than for work purposes), or groups which include non-professionals, may refer to this guidance for their activities, but in order to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus must at all times do so in line with government legislation and the Staying safe and protecting others guidance, particularly in relation to the number of individuals or households meeting together.
Non-professionals who are participating in an organised outdoor activity managed by an organisation – including a business, charity or club – can, from 24 August, meet outdoors. Organisers have a duty to ensure compliance with physical distancing, hygiene measures and this and other relevant guidance, and to undertake the same risk assessment processes as referenced in this guidance for professional organisations, including member/participant representatives in those processes.
Tourism and hospitality
This guidance is for the tourism and hospitality sectors in Scotland, and for other public venues able to reopen to the public from 24 August.
The sectors covered by this guidance are diverse. It is therefore necessary for this guidance to take a strategic approach, but it is designed for use by:
- All accommodation providers (hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, self-catering, caravan/holiday parks etc);
- Visitor attractions;
- Marine and adventure tourism;
- Other activity or experience tourism operations/centres;
- Tour operators;
- Pubs and restaurants;
- Retail aspects of tourism;
- Natural spaces insofar as they relate to tourism, such as the National Parks;
- Funfairs and amusement parks (static and mobile);
- Bingo halls.
Guidance for the events sector is particularly aimed at event organisers.
It aims to provide general guidance for event organisers in supporting the restart of their businesses, with a particular focus on the workforce and workplace, in order to help events restart safely at the appropriate time. It is intended to provide advice on measures that need to be considered for COVID-19 only and is not intended to be an overall event guide.
This Charter has been launched to enable housebuilders to make a common commitment to operate in line with government safe working guidance. Signatories to the Charter have publicly committed to safe working practices in accordance with government and Construction Leadership Council guidance. It has been co-produced by the government and the Home Building Federation.
Through adherence to this Charter, the aim is that the industry can continue to provide much needed additions to housing supply and play its part in the country’s economic recovery while delivering on its top priority: protecting the health and safety of the home building workforce, visitors to site and the local community.
According to HBF: “The Charter is a public facing commitment which supports the very detailed protocols individual builders have in place to ensure safe working on sites.”
As an employer, you must protect people from harm. This includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus. This is called a risk assessment and it’ll help you manage risk and protect people.
- Identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus;
- Think about who could be at risk;
- Decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed;
- Act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn’t possible, control the risk.
If you have fewer than five employees, you don’t have to write anything down, but it might help if you do.
In terms of ‘Talking to your workers’ – separate guidance is available to help employers let people know what they need to do to protect themselves – see below.
This guidance goes on to cover who should go to work; protecting people who are at higher risk; getting into and leaving work; the work area; moving around; common areas; good hygiene; information and guidance; and PPE.
Talking with your workers about preventing coronavirus
This guide from HSE is aimed at all employers. It explains how to talk to workers about preventing coronavirus in the workplace. It gives guidance on reducing the risks from coronavirus, for example by putting in place social distancing measures, staggering shifts and providing additional handwashing facilities.
The guidance may also be useful to workers and their representatives, and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people. The law requires all employers to assess the risk of returning to work while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing and to put steps in place to manage that risk.
It says that by talking to your workers you can:
- Explain the changes you are making;
- Get their thoughts and ideas about how to change the workplace to keep people safe and to ensure those changes are workable;
- Continue to operate your business safely during the pandemic.
The guide covers five areas and suggests questions you can use to discuss managing the risks of coronavirus with your workers when you are doing your risk assessment. Actions can then be taken to make sure your plans are working safely and people have been listened to.
It notes how employers can hold conversations before returning to work so that plans can be developed and put in place before going back. You could then have further discussions soon after return to make sure the actions are working and are being followed.
You may also decide to repeat the discussions if something changes, for example:
- New guidelines are published;
- Lockdown restrictions change;
- Plans you put in place don’t work as expected, eg if social distancing in welfare facilities isn’t working;
- Work or tasks change someone in the workplace is diagnosed with coronavirus.
Importantly, you should make sure that there is time available for managers and workers to have these conversations. The guide relies on both managers and workers having an open and honest conversation.
It covers the following:
- Social distancing;
- Organising your workplace;
- Cleaning and sanitising;
- Information and guidance;
- Wellbeing and support.
This guide from ACAS may also be useful to workers and their representatives, and those who are self-employed and work with or near other people. The law requires all employers to assess the risk of returning to work while the coronavirus outbreak is ongoing and to put steps in place to manage that risk.
Wales: Unlocking our society and economy: continuing the conversation
This document sets out the steps the Welsh Government are considering in order to lead Wales out of the coronavirus pandemic.
It builds on the approach set out in the document published on 24 April (Leading Wales out of the coronavirus pandemic: a framework for recovery) which identified three pillars:
1 Measures and evidence
2 Principles underpinning adjustments to restrictions
3 Public health purpose.
It is felt that there is a growing risk that changed behaviours could lead to a rapid, possibly uncontrolled increase in the spread of the disease. To avoid this, the document notes that Wales needs to move at a pace which is matched by its capacity to identify and shut down new outbreaks of the disease – to test, trace and protect those who become ill or have the virus without symptoms and ensure that they self-isolate to protect onward transmission.
It says the next few weeks need to be spent adapting workplaces, public spaces and other places where people come in contact with each other to the necessity of maintaining social distancing.
A traffic light-style system is set out, which is based on four stages to determine how those rules could be lifted – lockdown, red, amber and green – and includes the reopening of schools, seeing family and friends, playing sports and running businesses.
There are no dates given in the document, as changes can be only made when the scientific and medical advice says it is safe to do so, it says.
The document gives some detail to how life would look under each category:
- Lockdown – Schools are only open to vulnerable pupils’ children and children of key workers, people are advised to stay at home, only leaving home for essential travel and to work from home if possible.
- Red – Schools enabled to manage increase in demand from more key workers and vulnerable pupils returning; local travel, including for click-and-collect retail allowed; people allowed to provide or receive care and support to/from one family member or friend from outside the household
- Amber – Priority groups of pupils to return to school in a phased approach; travel for leisure allowed together with meeting with small groups of family or friends for exercise; people able toaccess non-essential retail and services; more people travelling to work;
- Green – All children and students able to access education; Unrestricted travel subject to ongoing precautions; All sports, leisure and cultural activities, as well as socialising with friends permitted, with physical distancing.
The Welsh government stressed that it is monitoring the “R rate” to decide what can be lifted and when.
This workplace guidance is for employers and employees. The Welsh Government is now following a cautious approach to easing this lockdown and re-opening workplaces.
This guidance aims to help employers and employees who are currently working or who will be reopening workplaces understand what we believe is important and how everyone should approach the shared endeavour of safe work. It is for all workplaces.
Key information addressed includes the following:
- workforce health: if someone becomes unwell in the workplace with a new, continuous cough; high temperature; the loss or a change in their normal sense of smell or taste they should be sent home and advised to follow the advice to stay at home
- keep legal: if you are permitted to operate your business you must do so safely in a way that complies with any restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus Regulations, in addition to other legal obligations imposed on employers (such as health and safety legislation)
- physical distancing
- risk assessment: all risks should be assessed, with meaningful discussion with staff and/or their recognised trade union, before re-commencing work. If the business or organisation is required by law to have a written risk assessment (where there are 5 or more employees) then significant findings must be written down and control measures put in place.
Wales: Retailers: coronavirus workplace guidance – updated 22 June
Published by the Welsh Government, this guidance to help employers, employees and the self-employed in Wales understand how to work safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping as many people as possible 2 metres apart from those they do not live with.
A person responsible for carrying on a business, or providing a service (included in Part 4 of Schedule 1 to the Coronavirus Regulations) or providing a service included on this list must undertake the following in respect of any premises where the business is carried on or the service is provided. They must take all reasonable measures to ensure:
- that a distance of 2m is maintained between any persons on the premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer)
- that persons are only admitted to the business premises in sufficiently small numbers to make it possible to maintain that distance, and
- that a distance of 2m is maintained between persons waiting to enter the business premises (except between two members of the same household, or a carer and the person assisted by the carer).
All employers, employees and the self-employed in Wales are being asked to:
- show care by acting with compassion and understanding
- comply with laws designed to keep us all safe
- involve everyone, because safety is a shared endeavour
- adapt workplaces and behaviours
- communicate with clarity and consistency.
The guidance sets out how to work safely and gives practical considerations of how it can be applied in the workplace. It advises that all Statutory Guidance and supplementary guidance must be taken into account, on taking all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing in the workplace.
It applies specifically to businesses in the retail sector and branches. The guidance applies to those currently open and will help those that are currently closed consider what their operations need to look like when they are allowed to open.
It is stressed that, in order to help decide which actions to take, an appropriate COVID-19 risk assessment must be undertaken. This risk assessment must be done in consultation with the recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers, says the guidance.
Northern Ireland: NI Executive publishes plan for easing lockdown
A five-stage plan for easing the COVID-19 lockdown in Northern Ireland has been published by the Executive. The document sets out the approach the Executive will take when deciding how to ease rstrictions in the future.
The plan does not include a timetable, but it is hoped to reach the final stage by December.
In making decisions, the Executive will consider three key criteria: the most up-to-date scientific evidence; the ability of the health service to cope; and the wider impacts on health, society and the economy.
Measures detailed in the plan include, amongst others:
- encouragement to those unable to work from home to return to work on a phased basis
- large outdoor-based retail can open including garden centres, though associated cafes and restaurants can only offer takeaway or collection
- groups of four to six people who do not share a household can meet outdoors maintaining social distancing. With the exception of people who are shielding, visits to immediate family allowed indoors where social distancing is possible
- non-food retail can open where numbers are limited, with social distancing
- groups of up to 10 can meet outdoors
- as demand increases on public transport within social distancing requirements, people encouraged to walk and cycle for short journeys where possible
- phased return to office and onsite working subject to risk assessment. Work that can be done from home should still be done from home
- schools expand provision for priority groups on a part-time basis, using a combination of in-school and remote learning
- gatherings can accommodate up to 30 people while maintaining social distancing
- other “contact” retail (hairdressers, fitness studios, tattoo and piercing parlours) can open subject to mitigations following risk assessment
- schools expand provision to accommodate all pupils on part-time basis with combination of in-school and remote learning
- reducing and staggering demand for public transport at peak times through continued home working and staggered start times for businesses
- all able to return to work subject to mitigations. Remote working still strongly encouraged
- hospitality retail (restaurants, cafes, pubs) can open subject to risk assessment, initially on a limited basis
- expand early-year school provision to full-time basis
- public transport operating full service but subject to ongoing risk assessment.
Coronavirus guidance for schools
This guidance is for schools and other educational settings on managing premises during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
It is aimed at leaders of schools and other educational settings; and members of staff with responsibility for managing premises.
Schools are advised to review their arrangements for all building-related systems but in particular:
- Hot and cold water systems;
- Gas safety;
- Fire safety;
- Kitchen equipment;
- Security including access control and intruder alarm systems.
While schools should review their arrangements for all building-related systems, says the guidance, in particular the following areas are important:
- Water systems – drinking water, hot water services;
- Ventilation – good ventilation is essential at all times in classrooms and particularly during this period;
- Fire safety – fire safety management plans should be reviewed and checked in line with operational changes;
- Cleaning – new cleaning arrangements in line with coronavirus preparations should also include regular systematic checks on drainage systems, where toilets are put back into use;
- All other systems – recommission all systems before re-opening, as would normally be done after a long holiday period.
This guidance is for:
- all staff in educational, childcare and children’s social care settings
- children, young people and other learners
It applies to:
- children’s homes, including secure children’s homes
- residential special schools or colleges
- fostering services
- visits to family homes
- alternative provision
- early years and childcare settings
- schools, including special schools
- colleges, including specialist post-16 institutions.
This guidance explains the principles of infection prevention and control to enable safe working during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Re-opening the workplace after coronavirus
Your organisation is looking ahead to stepwise resumption of operations once the COVID-19 lockdown starts to be eased. But what are your health and safety criminal law obligations for the return to work and what do you need to do to stay on the right side of the criminal law? Click here to read Simon Joyston-Bechal’s advice…
Barbour Resources: Re-opening work premises after COVID-19 – Technical Guide and Director’s Briefing
The UK Government is coming under increasing pressure to review their lockdown measures, particularly in terms of the reopening workplaces. Whilst this discussion is evolving, the purpose of this guidance from Barbour is to outline to employers the range of issues that they must consider (where relevant) in preparing their offices, factories and warehouses for reoccupation.
The guidance is set out in four main sections:
- Building Safety;
- Plant and Equipment Safety;
- Management of Safety;
- Managing Wellbeing.
It does not cover construction sites, or health and social care activities. These have their own sector specific guidance in place.
Existing risk assessments may not cover COVID-19 hazards in sufficient detail, and as such employers may wish to develop a specific risk assessment as part of their reoccupation planning. They must also consider how the key findings and controls from the risk assessment are effectively communicated to staff and other interested parties and how they are implemented. The guidance sets out topic areas that a reoccupation risk assessment might cover.
Barbour’s Director’s Briefing addresses some key questions that employers may have around re-opening the workplace following the COVID-19 lockdown:
- I want to reopen my site – where do I start?
What issues do I need to think about in terms of building safety? (fire safety; water management; asbestos containing materials; deep cleaning for re-occupation)
- What about plant and equipment safety?
- Do I need to make changes to the overall management of safety on site?
Guidance for Businesses Re-opening after Temporary Closure
The purpose of this guidance note is to provide information to those responsible for premises that have been closed for a period of time and where the water supply has not been in regular use.
It is applicable in the current situation when buildings are re-opened following a period of closure as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, but it is also relevant to a period of closure for any reason. It provides guidance to ensure water quality is maintained when the water supply within a building is returned to use.
Government coronavirus guidance
This document sets out advice on using green spaces and protecting yourself and others from coronavirus.
In England, you can leave your home to exercise and spend time outdoors for recreation with your household or in groups of up to six people from outside your household.
When travelling to outdoor spaces, it is important that people respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Do not travel to different parts of the UK where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations issued by the relevant devolved administration.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): Transport and travel guidance
How to self-isolate when you travel to England
This guidance has been updated to include a brief explanation of new rules coming into force from 15 February.
From this date, if you arrive in England and have travelled in a country on the banned travel list (sometimes called the ‘red list’) in the last 10 days, you will need to quarantine (self-isolate) in a government quarantine hotel for 10 days. You will need to book your hotel before you travel and 2 COVID-19 tests to take during your quarantine.
If you’re coming from a country that is not on the banned travel list, you will need to quarantine at home for 10 days. You will need to book 2 COVID-19 tests before you arrive to take during your quarantine.
You do not need to quarantine in England if you’re travelling from Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man and have not been in any other countries in the last 10 days.
The guidance also sets out:
- Who must self-isolate;
- How you should travel to the place where you are self-isolating;
- How to self-isolate;
- Support to help you self-isolate;
- What to do if you get coronavirus symptoms.
(updated 5 January 2021)
This guide is to help transport organisations in England understand how to provide safer workplaces and services for themselves, their workers and passengers. It outlines measures to assess and address the risks of coronavirus (COVID-19).
It now includes a link to information about the National lockdown, which applies in England.
The guidance covers risk assessment, noting that transport operators, as employers, must carry out a risk assessment. This guidance should be used to create a risk assessment that will:
- identify the risks arising from coronavirus
- inform the decisions and control measures that you need to put in place.
All existing non-coronavirus related health and safety requirements continue to apply.
(updated 5 January 2021)
The Department for Transport has updated this guidance to include information about the national lockdown, which applies to England. The rules are different in the other UK nations.
People must not leave home unless for a reasonable excuse (for example, for work, to attend a medical appointment, or education purposes). If you need to travel, you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. The list of reasons you can leave your home include, but are not limited to:
- Work, where you cannot reasonably work from home.
- Accessing education and for caring responsibilities.
- Visiting those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare.
- Visiting hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health.
- Buying goods or services that you need, but this should be within your local area wherever possible.
The guidance advises that, if you need to travel, walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead to avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practise social distancing while you travel.
Car sharing is not permitted with anyone from outside your household or support bubble unless your journey is undertaken for an exempt reason. See the guidance on car sharing.
If you need to use public transport, you should follow the public transport guidance.
Other travel related guidance
The government has also updated the following guidance:
Updated on 4 July as the travel exemptions came into effect.
Travel advice: coronavirus (COVID-19) 404931
Also updated as the exemptions to the global advice against all non-essential travel came into effect (4 July). The guidance also includes a new checklist following the change in travel advice, where some countries are exempted from the global advisory against non-essential international travel (from 4 July).
Relieving pressure on public transport
The government has announced plans for boosting active transport, in an attempt to relieve pressure on public transport.
Pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors will be created in England within weeks as part of a £250 million emergency active travel fund – the first stage of a £2 billion investment, as part of the £5 billion in new funding announced for cycling and buses in February.
Following unprecedented levels of walking and cycling across the UK during the pandemic, the plans will help encourage more people to choose alternatives to public transport when they need to travel, making healthier habits easier and helping make sure the road, bus and rail networks are ready to respond to future increases in demand.
The government will fund and work with local authorities across the country to help make it easier for people to use bikes to get around – including Greater Manchester, which wants to create 150 miles of protected cycle track, and Transport for London, which plans a “bike Tube” network above Underground lines.
Statutory guidance for local authorities
Fast-tracked statutory guidance, effective immediately, tells councils to reallocate road space for significantly-increased numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. In towns and cities, some streets could become bike and bus-only while others remain available for motorists. More side streets could be closed to through traffic, to create low-traffic neighbourhoods and reduce rat-running while maintaining access for vehicles.
Vouchers will be issued for cycle repairs, to encourage people to get their old bikes out of the shed, and plans are being developed for greater provision of bike fixing facilities. Many more will take up the Cycle to Work scheme, which gives employees a discount on a new bike, the government has said.
The government as announced that an updated Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy will be launched by the Prime Minister in the summer, with further measures to transform cycling and walking to deliver the government’s aims to double cycling and increase walking by 2025 – including:
- The creation of a national cycling and walking commissioner and inspectorate;
- Higher standards for permanent infrastructure across England;
- Getting GPs to prescribe cycling and exercise;
- Creating a long-term budget for cycling and walking similar to what happens for roads.
The government will also be launching a campaign to encourage more people to look at alternative ways to travel, to walk or get on a bike for their commute instead of public transport.
E-scooter trials will also be brought forward from next year to next month to help encourage more people off public transport and onto greener alternatives.
Staggering the commute
Further efforts to encourage drivers to ake the switch include the upcoming launch of a consultation which hopes to make charging electric vehicles just as easy as filling up a traditional petrol or diesel car. It will explore measures such as requiring rapid charging points – which are fundamental for longer journeys – to offer contactless payment, improving transparency on pricing and giving drivers better access to information about the chargepoints available on their journey.
The government says it is also working alongside the tech sector to see how technology could be used to help commuters stagger their journeys and advise on alternative modes of travel.
The statutory guidance is made under section 18 of the Traffic Management Act 2004.
Coronavirus advice from the HSE
The HSE is warning against the use of KN95 facemasks as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
A safety alert has been issued [11 June 2020], urging all employers and suppliers not to purchase or use KN95 facemasks as PPE.
Advice from the HSE highlights the fact that coronavirus can transfer from people to surfaces. It can be passed on to others who touch the same surfaces. Keeping your workplace clean reduces the potential for coronavirus to spread and is a critical part of making and keeping your business ‘COVID-secure’, it says.
This guidance aims to help employers to clean the workplace to reduce risk. It is suggested that the frequency of cleaning may need to be increased how thoroughly cleaning is undertaken, as well as cleaning surfaces that are not normally cleaned.
The HSE has also issued advice within a document titled: Social distancing, keeping businesses open and in-work activities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It covers guidance on social distancing, essential and non-essential work, and in-work activity.
Also released is guidance covering RIDDOR, first aid and chemicals:
First aid cover and qualifications during coronavirus (COVID-19)
If first aid cover for a business is reduced because of coronavirus or the first aid training needed is not available, this advice points out that there are some things that can be done to still comply with the law.
Arrangements for regulation of chemicals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak
The HSE has made some administrative changes in the provision of services for regulating chemicals during the coronavirus outbreak. These are set out for each chemical regime, with updated details on how to contact the HSE.
COVID-19 early outbreak management information has been created, and updated, to make sure that people who run businesses or organisations:
- Know how to recognise and report an incident of coronavirus (COVID-19);
- Are aware of measures local health protection teams may advise in order to contain it.
This information is contained within ‘action cards’ that have been designed for specific situations where an outbreak could occur. This could be a:
- Restaurant or café;
- Construction site;
- Place of worship.
The cards are designed to be printed or downloaded to keep on hand in your business or organisation.
Updates have been made to the definition of an outbreak, in line with revised guidelines.
RIDDOR reporting of COVID-19
What to report?
- Dangerous occurrences: if something happens at work which results in (or could result in) the release or escape of coronavirus you must report this as a dangerous occurrence
- Cases of disease: exposure to a biological agent: if there is reasonable evidence that someone diagnosed with COVID-19 was likely exposed because of their work you must report this as an exposure to a biological agent using the case of disease report.
From 15 June, face coverings will be required while using public transport in England.
The government will work with operators to make it mandatory for passengers to wear face coverings when using public transport in England, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.
Wherever possible people should continue to avoid public transport and walk, cycle or drive, but it is recognised that for some people this may not be an option. Transport usage has been slowly increasing, including on the tube which has seen around a 20% rise last week compared to the week before.
Other related content from SHP and IFSEC Global
HMRC Furlough Advice
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The UK’s coronavirus furlough scheme will finish at the end of October, Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently confirmed. He also set out how employers will have to start sharing the cost of the scheme.
From August, employers must pay National Insurance and pension contributions, then 10% of pay from September, rising to 20% in October. Also, workers will be allowed to return to work part-time from July, but with companies paying 100% of wages.
Mr Sunak said the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will adjust so “those who are able to work can do so”.
Some 8.4 million workers are having 80% of their salaries paid for by the government – up to £2,500 a month – under the scheme, which was originally intended to last until the end of July.
Under these changes, furloughed workers will continue to get 80% of pay until the end of October, but by then a fifth of their salary will have to be met by employers.
“Then, after eight months of this extraordinary intervention of the government stepping in to help pay people’s wages, the scheme will close,” Mr Sunak said.
How will the scheme change?
From 1 July, businesses will be allowed to bring furloughed employees back part-time, a month earlier than previously announced. The move is aimed to help support people back to work, the government said.
It will be down to individual firms to decide what part-time means. They will be able to set the hours and shift patterns staff will work when they return, but companies will have to pay wages while they are in work.
From 1 August the level of government grant will be reduced “to reflect that people are returning to work”.
Furloughed workers will continue to receive 80% of their pay, but from August it will include a growing employer contribution. It will start with bosses paying NI and pensions in August, plus 10% of pay in September, rising to 20% in October.
During August the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will have to pay NI and pension contributions. For the average claim, that’s 5% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee had not been furloughed.
In September, the government will cut its grants to 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,190. Employers will pay NI and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up the 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. That works out at 14% of the average gross employment costs the employer would have incurred.
In October the government grant will be cut to 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay NI and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up the 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. That’s 23% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
The following guidance from HMRC is available:
- Work out 80% of your employees’ wages to claim through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme;
- Check if you can claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme;
- Check if your employer can use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
The Coronavirus Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 19 March 2020, received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020 and is now in force.
The purpose of the Act is to enable the Government to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of a covid-19 pandemic. A severe pandemic could infect up to 80% of the population leading to a reduced workforce, increased pressure on health services and death management processes. The Bill contains temporary measures designed to either amend existing legislative provisions or introduce new statutory powers which are designed to mitigate these impacts.
Chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty advises that the group of people who should take “particular care to minimise their social contact” are:
- People over the age of 70
- Other adults who would normally be advised to have the flu vaccine (such as those with chronic diseases);
- Pregnant women.
Public Health England stay at home guidance is intended for:
- People with symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus, and do not require hospital treatment, who must remain at home until they are well;
- Those living in households with someone who shows symptoms that may be caused by coronavirus.
Coronavirus symptoms: UK adds loss of smell and taste to list
Loss of smell or taste have been added to the UK’s list of coronavirus symptoms that people should look out for and act upon. Until now, only a fever and cough were triggers for people to shut themselves away in self-isolation in case they had and could spread the infection. Ear, nose and throat doctors had been warning for weeks that more symptoms should be included. Scientific advisers told the government to update the advice.
If you or someone you live with has any of these symptoms – a new, continuous cough, fever or loss of smell or taste – the advice is stay at home for seven days to stop the risk of giving coronavirus to others.
Loss of smell and taste may still be signs of other respiratory infections, such as the common cold. Experts say fever and cough remain the most important symptoms of coronavirus to look out for.
Government launches plan to tackle loneliness during coronavirus lockdown
The Government has launched a major effort to tackle loneliness and social isolation during the coronavirus outbreak and period of social distancing. Led by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, the plan will aim to ensure that, for people of all ages and backgrounds, staying at home does not need to lead to loneliness.
The latest #Let’sTalkLoneliness public campaign has been rolled out to get people talking openly about loneliness, which includes new public guidance offering useful tips and advice on what to do to look after yourself and others safely.
In a wide-ranging cross-Government and cross-sector plan, Dowden has also announced that:
- Smaller, community-based organisations in England helping people to stay connected in local communities will benefit from being a priority category of the £750 million package of support for charities announced by the Chancellor on 8 April;
- National loneliness organisations will be allocated a guaranteed £5 million worth of funding to continue and adapt their critical work at this time;
- As part of the national effort, loneliness charities including Age UK will be supported to work with NHS Volunteer Responders in their communities.
Many businesses have begun to embrace the idea of flexible working and working from home and, in the current climate, more and more of us may find ourselves plunged into doing so for longer than the one to two days a week, which employers and employees adapt to fairly easily, potentially leading to increased work-related stress and mental health conditions for employers.
It is predicted that by 2020, half of UK’s workforce will work from home, according to the Office for National Statistics. SHP, Barbour EHS and The Healthy Work Company have compiled a home working hub to provide research, case studies, videos and resources to enable you to lead this transition in a way which safeguards the health and wellbeing of your teams and maximises the opportunity to embrace new ways of working for the future and how to maintain a positive mental health and limit stress, as well as helpting to create a healthy workplace for individuals.
How do I know if I have coronavirus?
Can employers be prosecuted if employees are exposed to COVID-19?
Amidst all the coronavirus headlines, some commentators have speculated that employers may be about to face prosecution if they don’t take all precautions possible to protect staff and third parties from infection. Is this really the case, find out here?
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £30bn package to help the economy get through the coronavirus outbreak in his Budget on 11 March. He added that the NHS would get “whatever resources it needs”.
The measures put in place to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus outbreak include:
- £5bn emergency response fund to support the NHS and other public services;
- Statutory sick pay will be paid to all those who choose to self-isolate, even if they don’t have symptoms;
- Those on employee benefits who get ill will be able to “claim from day one instead of day eight”;
- A £500m “hardship fund” to be given to local authorities to help vulnerable people in their areas;
- Firms with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for two weeks;
- Small and medium-sized businesses will be able to access “business interruption” loans of up to £1.2m;
- Business rates will be abolished for firms in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors with a rateable value below £51,000. The measure will apply to firms including shops, cinemas, restaurants and hotels;
- “Fiscal loosening” of £18bn to support the economy this year, taking the total fiscal stimulus to £30bn.
On 11 March, the outbreak was labelled a coronavirus pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO Chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the number of cases outside China had increased 13-fold over the past two weeks. He said he was “deeply concerned” by “alarming levels of inaction” over the virus.
A pandemic is a disease that is spreading in multiple countries around the world at the same time.
How does coronavirus spread?
When someone who has COVID-19 coughs or exhales they release droplets of infected fluid. Most of these droplets fall on nearby surfaces and objects – such as desks, tables or telephones.
People could catch COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces or objects – and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. If they are standing within one meter of a person with COVID-19 they can catch it by breathing in droplets coughed out or exhaled bythem. In other words, COVID-19 spreads in a similar way to flu.
Preventing coronavirus in the workplace
The guidance stresses that employers should start taking these the following measures now, even if COVID-19 has not arrived in the communities where they operate:
- Make sure your workplaces are clean and hygienic.
- Surfaces (eg desks and tables) and objects (eg telephones, keyboards) need to be wiped with disinfectant regularly.
- Promote regular and thorough hand-washing by employees, contractors and customers.
- Put sanitizing hand rub dispensers in prominent places around the workplace. Make sure these dispensers are regularly refilled;
- Display posters promoting hand-washing;
- Offer guidance from occupational health and safety officers;
- Make sure that staff, contractors and customers have access to places where they can wash hands with soap and water.
- Promote good respiratory hygiene in the workplace.
- Display posters promoting respiratory hygiene. Combine this with other communication measures;
- Ensure tissues are available at your workplaces, for those who develop a runny nose or cough at work, along with closed bins for hygienically disposing of them;
- Advise employees and contractors to consult national travel plans before going on business trips.
- Brief your employees, contractors and customers that if COVID-19 starts spreading in your community anyone with even a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3 C or more) needs to stay at home.
- Make clear to employees that they will be able to count this time off as sick leave.
The guidance goes on to advise on procedures for employees who travel (before travelling, during and after), and sets out advice for getting a business ready should COVID-19 arrive in the workplace. It is stressed that simple a precautionary measure and planning can make a big difference. Action now will help protect your employees and your business.
Your organisation is now making preparations for the coming coronavirus pandemic and you are deluged with specific concerns, information and action plans that need to be developed. Amongst the many questions being asked by the Board, should be a cut through question: ‘What are our health and safety criminal law obligations in dealing with the Coronavirus, what do we have to do and how can we protect ourselves from blame if we get it wrong?’
How the UK dealt with coronavirus
The initial response to the outbreak had the fundamental objectives to deploy phased actions to Contain, Delay, and Mitigate any outbreak, using Research to inform policy development. The different phases, types and scale of actions depends upon how the course of the outbreak unfolds over time, said the plan. The overall phases of the plan to respond to COVID-19 are as follows:
- Contain: detect early cases, follow up close contacts, and prevent the disease taking hold in this country for as long as is reasonably possible;
- Delay: slow the spread in this country, if it does take hold, lowering the peak impact and pushing it away from the winter season;
- Research: better understand the virus and the actions that will lessen its effect on the UK population; innovate responses including diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; use the evidence to inform the development of the most effective models of care;
- Mitigate: provide the best care possible for people who become ill, support hospitals to maintain essential services and ensure ongoing support for people ill in the community to minimise the overall impact of the disease on society, public services and on the economy.
Ultimately, the response to COVID-19 is guided by the international situation, the advice of organisations such as the WHO, surveillance, data modelling based on the best available evidence and the recommendations of expert bodies.
System wide response plans for pandemic influenza, focused on the continuity of public and critical services and the stability of the economy, have been adapted for COVID-19, based on the best available scientific evidence and advice. Click here for the latest information on the current situation.
It is stressed that the nature and scale of the response depends on the course of the disease, which cannot be predicted accurately at this point. As understanding of the disease increases and its impact becomes clearer, the government will issue further detailed advice about what to expect if/when further measures become necessary.
Coronavirus delay phase
In addition to actions taken as part of the Contain phase, the plan emphasises the actions that people can be taking themselves to help delay the peak of the infection; especially encouraging people to wash hands more often; and the catch it, bin it, kill it strategy for those with coughs and sneezes.
Delaying the spread of the disease requires everyone to follow the advice set out in this document. The benefits of doing so are that if the peak of the outbreak can be delayed until the warmer months, the risk of overlapping with seasonal flu and other challenges (societal or medical) that the colder months bring can be significantly reduced.
Coronavirus: Advice for businesses
The TUC is calling on the government to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak by providing emergency support for the millions of UK workers who are currently missing out on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
In a letter to Matt Hancock and Thérèse Coffey, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady warns that inadequate provision of sick pay could stop people taking up public health advice, since many workers will struggle to meet basic living costs if they can’t attend work for a prolonged period.
As a result, some may feel they have no choice but to go to work while ill, or against government advice.
Currently, nearly 2 million of the lowest-paid workers don’t earn enough to qualify for statutory sick pay. According to TUC analysis this includes:
- 34% of workers on zero-hours contracts;
- 1 in 10 women in work;
- More than a fifth (22%) of workers aged 16-24;
- More than a quarter (26%) of workers aged 65 and over, identified by government as one of the groups most vulnerable to the virus.
WHO warns that supplies of PPE is “rapidly depleting”
In his daily briefing in Geneva on March 4 WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that supplies of PPE, such as the gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons used by health workers fighting coronavirus are “rapidly depleting” and warned against “hoarding and misuse”.
“We are concerned that countries’ abilities to respond are being compromised by the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment … caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse,” he said.
Healthcare workers rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others. But, says WHO, shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other frontline workers dangerously ill-equipped. “Without secure supply chains, the risk to healthcare workers around the world is real. Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding. We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers first,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, prices have surged. Surgical masks have seen a sixfold increase, N95 respirators have trebled and gowns have doubled.
Supplies can take months to deliver and market manipulation is widespread, with stocks frequently sold to the highest bidder.
WHO has so far shipped nearly half a million sets of personal protective equipment to 47 countries,* but supplies are rapidly depleting.
Based on WHO modelling, an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month. For examination gloves, that figure goes up to 76 million, while international demand for goggles stands at 1.6 million per month.
Recent WHO guidance calls for the rational and appropriate use of PPE in healthcare settings, and the effective management of supply chains.
WHO is working with governments, industry and the Pandemic Supply Chain Network to boost production and secure allocations for critically affected and at-risk countries.
To meet rising global demand, WHO estimates that industry must increase manufacturing by 40%.
Governments should develop incentives for industry to ramp up production, says WHO. This includes easing restrictions on the export and distribution of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.
Every day, WHO is providing guidance, supporting secure supply chains, and delivering critical equipment to countries in need.
The Department of Health and Social Care is evaluating the potential impact of coronavirus on the supply of medicines and medical goods.
There were no current medicine shortages in the UK linked to the situation in China but the UK government is taking precautionary measures to help continue the uninterrupted supply of medicines to patients in the UK.
Coronavirus: no evidence that food is a source or transmission route
EFSA is closely monitoring the situation regarding the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that is affecting a large number of countries across the globe. There is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.
EFSA’s Chief Scientist, Marta Hugas, said: “Experiences from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), show that transmission through food consumption did not occur. At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is any different in this respect.”
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said that while animals in China were the likely source of the initial infection, the virus is spreading from person to person.
The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has warned the public to be aware of scams and fraudulent emails relating to the coronavirus outbreak. Similar scams have reportedly already tricked the UK public out of £800,000, according to the police.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new respiratory illness that has not previously been seen in humans.
Where do coronaviruses come from?
Coronaviruses are viruses that circulate among animals but some of them are also known to affect humans. After they have infected humans, they can eventually be transmitted to humans.
What is the mode of transmission? How (easily) does it spread?
Because it’s a new illness, it is not known exactly how coronavirus spreads from person to person, but similar viruses spread by respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, or exhale. While animals are the source of the virus, this virus is now spreading from one person to another (human-to-human transmission). At time of writing, there is currently not enough epidemiological information to determine how easily and sustainably this virus is spreading between people.
What are the symptoms?
With many similarities of a common cold, the main signs of infection are fever (high temperature) and a cough as well as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties and sore throat.
How to protect yourself
The NHS advise the following measures to help stop germs like coronavirus spreading:
- Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze. Then bin the tissue, and wash hands, or use a sanitiser gel;
- Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after using public transport. Use a sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
- Avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
Coronavirus: Supporting Workers
What are your rights if working from home?
This article has been published by BBC News, and addresses questions around worker’s rights if working from home during the pandemic. Under the stringent new measures announced by the UK government [16 March] to combat the spread of coronavirus, everyone should work from home if they can.
For many people, homeworking will not be possible, but they still face the possibility of self-isolation, under the guidelines announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Changes have been made to the sick pay system. The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2020 are in force. There has been concern that people will be more likely to infect others if they do not have incentives to stay at home when they are at risk.
IOSH stress that employers have a role to play in preventing the spread of the disease by taking sensible action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as ensuring that workers have access to appropriate hygiene facilities such hot water, soap and bins to get rid of used tissues.
Workers are advised to maintain good hygiene standards around the workplace by following the latest advice from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website which includes the following basic protective measures:
- Wash hands frequently with alcohol-based hand wash or wash with soap and water;
- Maintain social distancing – maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet distance) between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing;
- Avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose;
- Practice respiratory hygiene;
- Atay informed and follow the advice given by health care providers.
Government guidance for employees, employers and businesses
[Updated 7 April 2020]
This guidance, for employees, employers and businesses providing advice about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to be updated. It has been issued by Public Health England and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The guidance aims to assist employers and businesses in providing advice to their staff on:
- The novel coronavirus, COVID-19;
- How to help prevent spread of COVID-19;
- What to do if someone has symptoms of COVID-19 has been in business settings;
- Eligibility for sick pay.
It also provides details of support available to businesses.
Guidance is included on use of face masks in the community, noting that there is very little evidence of widespread benefit from the use of face masks outside of the clinical or care settings, where they play a very important role.
To be effective, face masks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour.
Research shows that compliance with these recommended behaviours reduces over time when wearing face masks for prolonged periods, such as in the community.
This guidance will assist employers, businesses and their staff in addressing coronavirus (COVID-19).
- businesses and workplaces should make every possible effort to enable working from home as a first option. Where working from home is not possible, workplaces should make every effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government
- members of staff who are vulnerable or extremely vulnerable, as well as individuals whom they live with, should be supported as they follow the recommendations set out in guidance on social distancing and shielding respectively
- where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff. Potential mitigating actions are set out in these illustrative industry examples
- staff who are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should not travel to or attend the workplace
- staff may be feeling anxious about coming to work and also about impacts on livelihood. Workplaces should ensure staff are fully briefed and appropriately supported at this time
- any member of staff who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) (a new, continuous cough and/or a high temperature) should be sent home and stay at home for 7 days from onset of symptoms. If the member of staff lives in a household where someone else is unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) then they must stay at home in line with the stay at home guidance
- employees will need your support to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to others
- employees should be reminded to wash their hands for 20 seconds more frequently and catch coughs and sneezes in tissues
- frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using your standard cleaning products
- those who follow advice to stay at home will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) from the first day of their absence from work
- employers should use their discretion concerning the need for medical evidence for certification for employees who are unwell. This will allow GPs to focus on their patients.
The guidance sets out that it is good practice for employers to:
- keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace;
- ensure employees who are in a vulnerable group are strongly advised to follow social distancing guidance;
- make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date;
- make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace is potentially infected and needs to take the appropriate action;
- make sure there are places to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and encourage everyone to do so regularly;
- provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them.
The content of the guidance covers the following:
- Good practice for employers
- Social distancing in the workplace – principles
- Shift-working and staggering processes
- Staying at home if you, or someone in your household, has symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) on site
- Sick pay
- Certifying absence from work
- What to do if an employee needs time off work to look after someone
- Limiting spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in business and workplaces
- Use of face masks in the community
- Moving goods
- Cleaning and waste disposal
- Handling post or packages
- Food safety
COVID-19: support for businesses
The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:
- a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- deferring VAT and Self-Assessment payments
- a Self-employment Income Support Scheme
- a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
- a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
- small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
- grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
- the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
- a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loansthe HMRC Time To Pay Scheme.
The guidance document sets out detailed information on the following:
- Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
- Support for businesses through deferring VAT payments
- Support for businesses through deferring Self-Assessment payments on account
- Support for self-employed through the Self-employment Income Support Scheme
- Support for businesses who are paying sick pay to employees
- Support for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses that pay business rates
- Support for nursery businesses that pay business rates
- Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates
- Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
- Support for large businesses through the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme
- Support for larger firms through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility
- Support for businesses paying tax: Time to Pay service
- Commercial insurance
- Protection from eviction for commercial tenants
- Extension of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) arrangements.
Support for businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This guidance sets out advice on:
- going to work
- staying at home
- sick pay
- furloughed workers
- claiming benefits.
Poster now available
This advice is for employers on social distancing during coronavirus (COVID-19). It is set out as tailored advice for different scenarios, to provide an example of how social distancing and other measures might be implemented by employers in England to help protect their workforce and customers from coronavirus while still continuing to trade. These are not intended to be comprehensive or to represent every business’s situation but are described as illustrative examples.
The examples cover the following:
- Shops running a pick-up or delivery service
- Tradespeople and working in people’s homes
- Manufacturing and processing businesses
- Logistics businesses
- Outdoor businesses
- Farming: visiting farms for animal health and welfare
- Fishing or other short-term offshore work
- Cargo-shipping or other long-term offshore work
- Transport businesses
- Waste management businesses
Acas coronavirus guidance
This advice from Acas stresses that people who are at high risk of getting a severe illness if they catch coronavirus (COVID-19) are ‘clinically vulnerable’, and as such must pay particular attention to social distancing.
Employers must be especially careful and take extra steps for anyone in their workforce who is in a vulnerable group. Some people will have been identified as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’, which means they have a very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. Clinically extremely vulnerable people should take particularly strict social distancing measures (‘shielding’). Anyone in this group will have previously had a letter from the NHS or their GP telling them this, and may have been shielding before.
For people living with somebody who is shielding, the government’s advice is that they should work from home if they can during the national lockdown in England (from 5 November 2020). If they cannot work from home, they should go into work. They should speak to their employer if they have any concerns.
ACAS has updated its advice, highlighting the current government coronavirus advice is that anyone who can work effectively from home should do so.
For workplaces that are open, everyone should:
- Follow government guidance on making the workplace safe;
- Avoid busy commuting times on public transport where travel is essential, and wear a face covering;
- Wash their hands regularly.
You must not go to work if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.
In terms of making a workplace safe, employers must:
- Encourage staff to work from home, wherever possible;
- Have completed a ‘risk assessment’, and taken reasonable steps to prevent harm in the workplace;
- Follow the government guidelines on safer working.
Further guidance is given on social distancing at work, and what employers should do while a workplace is closed. The importance of maintaining communication with workers is highlighted.
In this guidance, employers and employees are advised to be flexible and sensitive to each other’s situation when working from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Workplace expert Acas has published new guidance to help staff manage their mental health at work during coronavirus.
An Acas-commissioned YouGov survey conducted during coronavirus has found that nearly 2 out of 5 employees working from home felt stressed, anxious or experienced mental health difficulties due to their working situation.
The poll also found that:
- 1 in 2 people working from home felt isolated
- 7 out of 10 felt that they were missing social interactions with others at work.
Acas’s full advice includes practical steps for employees, managers and employers to help everyone’s mental health during this difficult time.
What to report?
- Dangerous occurrences: if something happens at work which results in (or could result in) the release or escape of coronavirus you must report this as a dangerous occurrence
- Cases of disease: exposure to a biological agent: if there is reasonable evidence that someone diagnosed with COVID-19 was likely exposed because of their work you must report this as an exposure to a biological agent using the case of disease report.
If first aid cover for a business is reduced because of coronavirus or the first aid training needed is not available, this advice points out that there are some things that can be done to still comply with the law.
The HSE has made some administrative changes in the provision of services for regulating chemicals during the coronavirus outbreak. These are set out for each chemical regime, with updated details on how to contact the HSE.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have issued advice about how to look after wellbeing and mental health for those who cannot return to the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also includes information on how FCO may be able to help, if a British national needs help, if unable to return to the UK from abroad.
It advises those in such a position to keep in regular contact with the people who usually offer support, such as family, friends and colleagues, especially if you are self-isolating abroad.
Self-isolating: What this means in practice
This means staying at home for 10 days and not going to work, schools or public areas.
Avoid having visitors to your home; however, it is OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food.
These steps are recommended to limit the potential spread of infection.
Find out what to do using the NHS 111 online coronavirus service.
The NHS advice is do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.
Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland:
- Scotland: call your GP surgery or call 111 if your surgery is not open;
- Wales: call 111;
- Northern Ireland: call 111.
The Coronavirus Bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 19 March 2020, received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020 and is now in force.
The purpose of the Coronavirus Act is to enable the Government to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of a covid-19 pandemic. A severe pandemic could infect up to 80% of the population leading to a reduced workforce, increased pressure on health services and death management processes. The Bill contains temporary measures designed to either amend existing legislative provisions or introduce new statutory powers which are designed to mitigate these impacts.
The Bill aims to support Government in the following:
- Increasing the available health and social care workforce;
- Easing the burden on frontline staff;
- Containing and slowing the virus;
- Managing the deceased with respect and dignity;
- Supporting people.
The Act is required as part of a concerted effort across the whole of the UK to tackle the covid-19 outbreak. The intention is that it will enable the right people from public bodies across the UK to take appropriate actions at the right times to manage the effects of the outbreak.
As part of its contingency planning, the Government has considered what measures would be needed during a severe covid-19 outbreak to reduce the pressure of key services and limit the spread of infection.
It is stressed that these are extraordinary measures that do not apply in normal circumstances. For this reason, the legislation will be time-limited for two years and it is neither necessary nor appropriate for all of these measures come into force immediately. Instead, many of the measures in can be commenced from area to area and time to time, so as to ensure that the need to protect the public’s health can be aligned with the need to safeguard individuals’ rights. These measures can subsequently be suspended and then later reactivated, if circumstances permit, over the lifetime of the Act.
Coronavirus bill: summary of impacts
The Department of Health and Social Care issued an impact assessment document. It provides a summary of impacts relating to clauses within the Coronavirus Bill 2020 (now Act) and provides an overview of the impacts considered for each clause.
This instrument amends Schedule 4 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020 (“the All Tiers Regulations”) (S.I. 2020/1374) to move all of England currently in Tiers 1, 2 or 3 into Tier 4. It also makes some amendments to the Tier 4 restrictions in order to achieve a national lockdown. This includes:
- Removing outdoor recreation as an exception from the restrictions on leaving home.
- Restricting takeaway and click and collect of alcohol from hospitality businesses.
- Closing zoos, aquariums, safari parks and outdoor animal attractions, outdoor sports facilities and retail travel agents.
- Restricting childcare (other than early years provision) and supervised activities for children to vulnerable children and children of critical workers and removing the exemption to the gatherings restrictions for parent and child groups.
It also changes the expiry date of the All Tiers Regulations to 31 March 2021.
This instrument also amends the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/750) (“the No.3 Regulations”) to extend these regulations by six months so that they expire on 17 July 2021 and remove the ability for a police community support officer (PCSO) to use ‘reasonable force’ in enforcing the No. 3 Regulations.
The Regulations make some changes to the Tier 4 restrictions including:
- Removing exceptions for outdoor recreation, outdoor sports gatherings for under 18s and outdoor sports (other than for specific exceptions).
- Permitting childcare and supervised activities to only be used for children of critical workers and vulnerable children and removing the exception for parent and child groups.
- Closing zoos and all animal attractions, outdoor sports venues and retail travel agents.
- Restricting the sale of alcohol by hospitality businesses for takeaway and click and collect.
Overall, the amendments are being made to ensure that appropriate levels of intervention are made in the right places to manage COVID-19 outbreaks and help suppress the virus.
This instrument enables a number of public health measures to be taken to reduce the public health risks posed by the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in England which causes the disease COVID-19.
It came into force on 5 November 2020 and applies to England only.
The Regulations impose a nationwide lockdown for 28 days in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, thus easing NHS capacity and ensuring that the health system is not overwhelmed during the winter months. It is expected that, at the end of that period, the previous local alert levels introduced in October will once again be brought into force. This policy is subject to review.
The following Regulations are revoked:
- Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (Medium) (England) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1103), other than Schedule 3 to those Regulations
- Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (High) (England) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1104), other than Schedule 3 to those Regulations
- Health Protection (Coronavirus, Local COVID-19 Alert Level) (Very High) (England) Regulations 2020 (S.I. 2020/1105), other than Schedule 3 to those Regulations.
The furlough scheme will be extended to run from 5 November 2020 to 2 December 2020. This provision is not covered by this instrument.
The instrument introduces a number of social restrictions and business closures.
Regulation 5 sets out a restriction on people leaving the place where they are living without reasonable excuse. Examples of reasonable excuses include the exceptions listed in Regulation 6. This does not pply to someone who is homeless.
The Regulation 6 exceptions include:
- for necessary purposes:
- to obtain or access supplies and/or services from businesses and services that are open for oneself, one’s household, or a vulnerable person
- to access banking services
- to take exercise or visit a public open place for the purposes of open air recreation
- to attend a place of worship;
- to attend an event commemorating Remembrance Sunday or Armistice Day
- to undertake activities in relation to buying, renting, selling or letting property
- to visit a member or members of a linked household (known as a ‘bubble’)
- to collect takeaway food or goods that have been ordered for collection; or
- to recycle or dispose of waste
- for work, care and legal purposes
- for the purposes of education and training
- for emergency assistance
- for accessing critical public services and services provided by voluntary or charitable services
- so that elite athletes can train or compete
- to attend to personal medical needs, or to visit those giving birth or in hospital or care
- to give respite or support to other people, or to access it for oneself
- to visit a relative or friend on their deathbed, including if for their wedding, or to attend their funeral
- to look after children (for example, to take them to school, or to see their siblings, or to meet a prospective adopter)
- to provide for the welfare of pets
- to return home, where the person is on holiday immediately before this instrument comes into force
- to visit a family member or friend in prison.
Gatherings of more than two people are prohibited in public outdoor places and gatherings of two or more people are prohibited in all other places, unless an exception applies. Regulation 11 sets out the exceptions to the restrictions on gatherings.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 6) Regulations 2020
Regulation 2 of these Regulations amends the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020. The amendments consist of several provisions, including to:
- permit shops previously required to be closed (and similar premises including car dealerships and outdoor markets) to open, but note that they must comply with requirements relating to physical distancing and their customers must remain in the area local to where they are living
- remove limitations on marriage and civil partnership ceremonies taking place, subject to physical distancing requirements
- permit places of worship to open for private prayer
- state that it is a reasonable excuse to leave your local area or gather indoors with other persons in order to:
- move house;
- prepare a property for someone to move in;
- visit an estate or letting agent, developer sales office or show home in connection with the purchase, sale or rental of an unoccupied property;
- view an unoccupied property.
The Regulations came into force on 22 June 2020.
Coronavirus (Scotland) Act 2020
The Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill received Royal Assent on 6 April 2020.
The purpose of the Act is to enable the Government to respond to an emergency situation and manage the effects of a covid-19 pandemic. It contains temporary measures designed to either amend existing legislative provisions or introduce new statutory powers which are designed to mitigate these impacts.
The measures set out are deemed essential to respond to this current emergency and cover a range of measures intended to ensure that:
- renters are protected while confined to their homes
- the justice system is able to deliver essential services
- public services, business and consumers can still operate despite new restrictions.
Coronavirus (COVID-19): Phase 3: business and physical distancing guidance
The Scottish Government stresses that all businesses must act responsibly and align fully with the physical distancing measures introduced to protect the nation’s heath, well-being and economic future.
It also stresses that remote working should remain the default position for those who can. Where that is not possible businesses and organisations are encouraged to manage travel demand through staggered start times and flexible working patterns.
All business premises, sites and attractions not required by law to close should remain closed unless:
- essential to the health and welfare of the country during this crisis (as defined below) or
- supporting (or being repurposed to support) essential services or
- your business is able to open in accordance with the current position in the Scotland’s Route Map and
- apart from in exceptional circumstances critical to lives and safety, capable of working in a way which is fully consistent with established physical distancing advice
- every person in Scotland should continue to comply with the measures contained in: Coronavirus (COVID-19): staying safe and protecting others.
This document details the changes being made to the Scottish Government’s Phase 3 Route Map. The guidance applies from 14 September.
In Phase 3 regulations are still in place:
- Stopping some types of gatherings;
- Closing certain businesses, premises and venues.
Guidance on seeing friends and family covers:
- Meeting others indoors and outdoors;
- Extended households;
- Shared parenting.
No more than six people in total (from a maximum of two households) may meet at any time in the settings set out, with exceptions as explained in the guidance.
Children under 12 from the two households do not need to maintain physical distance and do not count towards the total number of people at the gathering. Adults accompanying these under 12s should maintain physical distancing from other adults not in their own household or an extended household.
These Regulations amend the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions and Requirements) (Local Levels) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 to introduce a requirement to stay at home for those living in a Level 4 area, similar to the requirement included in legislation in March 2020. These Regulations also reduce the number of people who can meet for social purposes in Level 4. The limit is now 2 people from 2 households, rather than 6 people from 2 households. Existing socialisation rules still apply for those under 12 and the limit for 12-17 year olds has been reduced to 2 people from 2 households.
These Regulations also adjust the rules on organised outdoor activity for under 18s and for outdoor exercise in Level 4 to prohibit those aged 12 and over from undertaking such activities unless the general social gathering limit is followed.
A requirement to stay at home for those living in Level 4 areas is being introduced now to take strong and urgent action to try to mitigate the impact of the new strain. The requirement to stay at home is similar to the requirement used in legislation earlier in the year, from March onwards. There are a number of reasonable excuses to ensure the requirement to stay at home is proportionate, some examples include obtaining food or medical supplies or for work, where it is not possible for the person to do so from home. A full list is found in the legislation.
These regulations provide additional powers to allow the requirement to be enforced by police, where required.
Health Protection (Coronavirus, Public Health Information for Passengers Travelling to England) Regulations 2020
This instrument imposes requirements on operators of commercial transport services for passengers travelling to England by sea, air or rail, from outside of the common travel area.
Operators are required to ensure information is provided to passengers about coronavirus, coronavirus disease and related duties and public health guidance to all passengers. The information must be provided to passengers before they book their travel, when they check in and whilst they are on board the vessel, aircraft or train. The aim is to allow those wishing to travel to England to make an informed choice about whether to complete their journey and increase public awareness of, and thereby compliance with, public health measures to be taken to reduce the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which causes the disease Covid-19.
The Regulations came into force on 8 June 2020.
The Regulations require operators to keep records of the steps taken to comply with the requirement imposed by the Regulations, so that authorised persons may audit compliance. Operators may therefore be required to provide authorised persons with copies of these records, or other information necessary to determine whether they have complied.
[updated 24 July 2020]
This Guide contains detailed information on a huge range of supports from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and other Government Departments and Agencies and advice on other practical steps businesses can take at this time.
The Guide is divided into 6 sections and also includes an Appendix which contains a COVID-19 Business Continuity Checklist which outlines some of the key risks to businesses as well as preparatory actions that can be taken to respond.
- Part 1 highlights a number of practical steps that businesses can initially take such as talking to your bank, checking your insurance details and engaging with Revenue.
- Part 2 sets out in detail the business supports that are available, ranging from loans to grants to vouchers to mentoring. These include the €450m Strategic Banking Corporation Ireland (SBCI) COVID-19 Working Capital Scheme, the €250m Restart Fund for Micro and Small businesses, Enterprise Ireland supports including the €2,500 Lean Business Continuity Voucher and the €5,000 Business Financial Planning Grant as well as supports from the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) like the Trading Online Voucher and the Mentor Programme.
- Part 3 of the Guide outlines other Government supports that are available to businesses. Details are provided on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and short time work supports. In addition, links are provided to other important resources like the NSAI Workplace and Retail Protection and Improvement Guides, details on the commercial rates waiver and amendments to planning and development regulations to temporarily allow restaurants to operate as takeaways, etc.
- Part 4 this section highlights the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, the Return to Work Safely Protocol and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) COVID-19 Templates and Checklists.
- Part 5 provides information on the COVID-19 Rapid Response Funding Call which was developed by the Government’s research and innovation agencies to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This Call was an agile and adaptive initiative to support development of innovative solutions (including STEM-based, social/behavioural science) that can have rapid demonstrable impact on the current COVID-19 crisis in Ireland.
- Part 6 of the Guide highlights those websites where up-to-date official information is available.
As the COVID-19 situation changes, Government supports also change to address new difficulties and provide solutions and guidance.
- Check the Barbour Service for latest documents
- Plans to contain Coronavirus are set out by the UK Government
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice.
- Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England: Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice.
- WHO EURO has released a guide on how to stay physically active during self-quarantine;
- Government to grant permission for pubs and restaurants to operate as takeaways as part of coronavirus response: government press release
- COVID-19: specified countries and areas with implications for returning travellers or visitors arriving in the UK.
- Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England: Coronavirus (COVID-19): latest information and advice.
- Coronavirus (COVID-19): Common questions, NHS.
- CIPD Advice
- Updated CIPD FAQs.
- IOSH Coronavirus pages.
- World Health Organization has published updated recommendations (29 February) for international traffic in relation to COVID-19 outbreak.
- World Health Organization Situation Reports for the latest details on the outbreak.
- World Health Organization: Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19.
- UK Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) guidance for health professionals.
- IOSH Report Managing the safety, health and security of mobile workers.
- Latest global figures: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by Johns Hopkins CSSE.
The World Health Organization also has a wealth of information available; in particular ‘coronavirus myth busters’ which is a useful page of information, addressing common concerns about the virus outbreak.