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New lockdown restrictions and how they will affect employers

View profile for Chris Amys
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Due to the rapid rise of new COVID-19 cases, England will be entering into a second nationwide lockdown initially between Thursday 5th November 2020 and Wednesday 2nd December 2020. This means people will be required to stay at home (except for specific purposes) as well as the closure of certain businesses.

Certain businesses have been ordered to close. According to the Government’s website, this includes:

  • all non-essential retail, including, but not limited to clothing and electronics stores, vehicle showrooms, travel agents, betting shops, auction houses, tailors, car washes, tobacco and vape shops;
  • indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks;
  • entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, adult gaming centres and arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, concert halls, zoos and other animal attractions, botanical gardens; and
  • personal care facilities such as hair, beauty and nail salons, tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services, non-medical acupuncture, and tanning salons.

Businesses who provide essential goods and services including supermarkets can remain open, subject to them being COVID-19 Secure. Home delivery services, including click-and-collect can also continue.

Hotels and other accommodation venues can also remain open, but can only be used by those for work purposes, i.e. not for recreational and leisure purposes.

Some other venues and businesses will still be permitted to remain open, such as childcare and support groups. Further specific details are expected in due course.

Notwithstanding the above, any workplace which is open must be COVID-19 Secure, although individuals are being actively encouraged to work from home where this is possible. It is important to emphasise that employers owe a duty of care to protect the health and safety of their employees.

Individuals who are at risk

Those who are aged over 60 or are clinically vulnerable are being advised to be especially careful, i.e. minimise contact with others. There is however no specific shielding requirement as there was during the previous lockdown.

Anyone defined on medical grounds as clinically extremely vulnerable are advised by the Government to work from home. If they cannot work from home, those within that category will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay during the second lockdown.

Businesses should identify any individuals who fall into the “at risk” category and make adjustments in order to protect their health and safety.

Travel

Businesses should avoid travel in and out of their local area and reduce the number of journeys undertaken by their employees.

Travel on public transport should also be for essential journeys only as well, with travelling to and from a workplace being on such exemption.

Employers should identify whether any transport disruptions will affect their business and make necessary adjustments.

Furlough

The furlough scheme has been extended, in which workers will be paid at least 80% of their salary up to a cap of £2,500 (gross) per month. Employers will be required to pay national insurance and pension contributions. Flexibility under the scheme will also be retained, allowing employees to continue working where they can.

To be eligible under the extended furlough scheme, employees must be on their employer’s PAYE before midnight on 30th October 2020. As before, furlough must also be expressly agreed with the employee.

All other elements of the furlough scheme continue unaffected, including the ability to top up wages.

Job Support Scheme

Due to the extension of the furlough scheme, the Job Support Scheme will be delayed until furlough comes to an end. If an employer has already put in place documentation with employees regarding the Job Support Scheme, this will need to be revoked and alternative furlough documentation should be provided.

How can we help you?

Please contact us on 01905 610410 if you require any advice on any of the employment and HR issues referred to above.

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