In a statement to the House of Commons today, Boris Johnson has outlined the following measures which will affect employers across the country:
- The Government is now asking office workers who can work from home to do so. This is a change to recent messaging which has encouraged employees to return to workplaces, and will be frustrating for many employers who have worked tirelessly to make their workplaces safe for those employees to return. For roles where homeworking is not possible, workers should continue to attend their workplaces (provided they are "Covid secure"). Whilst it has not been made clear, this appears to be effective immediately.
- In all sectors, the Government's "Covid secure" guidelines (assumed to be those published by the Government here) will become legal obligations. Businesses will face fines and/or enforced closure if they breach these obligations.
Businesses in the hospitality sector face further restrictions, and are now required to operate a table service only (except for takeaways) and close at 10pm. In addition, staff employed in retail and indoor hospitality venues must now wear face coverings.
It is expected that further detail will be provided in the Prime Minister's televised statement this evening. The measures described above will require a change in guidance or, in some cases, the law, over the coming days. Employers should continue to pay close attention to the details of the measures in any guidance or legislation.
The Government has yet to announce the details of any new support packages which will be offered to businesses which continue to be severely affected by restrictions in the current environment. The Job Retention Scheme is currently due to come to an end on 31 October 2020, and the government has repeatedly stated that it will not be extended in its current form. Given the introduction of these new measures, the Government is facing increased pressure to clarify the support which will be available to employers after 31 October 2020 but has not provided any indication of the measures which will be introduced, or when the details of those measures will be made public.