Coronavirus: What happens now?

News on 24 March 2020

A lockdown in all but name, yet work continues for many who cannot work from home

Most of the UK no doubt were watching/listening to the Prime Minister at 8.30pm last night where he introduced the anticipated instructions without using the word lockdown. The measures were largely designed around segregation of households and instructed people to stay at home. 

You should only leave the house for one of four reasons:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, which must be as infrequent as possible.
  • One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household.
  • Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home

Even when doing these activities, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.

The government has put some of the following measures in place:

  • Closing Non-Essential Shops and Public Spaces
  • Stopping Public Gatherings – preventing gatherings of more than 2 people unless they are from the same household

There is an exception where the gathering is essential for work purposes - but workers should be trying to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace. You can read the guidance here

Unfortunately, the announcement has confused many people and led to more questions than answers.

The Government message on social media last night noting only “key workers” should be allowed to travel to work seems to have been modified by Michael Gove this morning when he noted that major construction work should go ahead, but jobs carried out at close quarters in someone’s home would not be appropriate. He noted emergency call outs were fine as long as social distancing were observed.

The intention of the government appears to be to stop non-essential travel and to stop retail (so, face to face business to consumer businesses). Going to work is an exception to the ‘stay at home rule’ and many trades and sectors can clearly not work from home. The challenge for these employers is therefore to encourage your employees to travel to work and carry out their tasks safely, whilst exercising social distancing whilst travelling and carrying out their tasks.

We have many clients in this position who have paused work today based on the statement by Johnson, that may well be reconsidering this as the clarifications are being teased out through media interviews and other statements. They are considering how they can keep their employees safe through modified travel and work procedures.

The Police federation Chair, John Apter, stated it was “not realistic” to enforce the full scope of the measures, with phone lines to police forces under strain as people want to understand how the Police will operate (e.g. will they be at train station checking people’s motives for travel).

Need some advice about what happens now for your business? contact us