Back to work for some as lockdown measures shift a gear + guidance

Work from home if you can but if not, go to work. And social distancing rules still apply for all. These were the headline changes to lockdown measures announced by the prime minister yesterday. The changes will be hugely significant to the manufacturing and construction industries, but much less so for most office-based businesses.

More change is expected in Step 2 of the government's plans, when the phased reopening of shops may be expected around 1st June. Step 3, which is currently expected to come into effect during July at the earliest, will see "at least some of the hospitality industry and other public places" open, provided they are a safe. On this, he said work had been carried out to establish new guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure.

The new guidance includes the frequent cleaning of surfaces and equipment, staggered arrival and departure times and the avoidance of hot desking. The full document can be found here:

Other changes were announced for schools, which will be pertinent for parents of children in reception, Year 1 and Year 6 and who may struggle with childcare if they return to work.

Responding to the changes, Rod Hunt, a partner with law firm Clyde & Co and a specialist in health and safety in employment, said: "Not much has changed. Businesses in those sectors that are allowed to operate can continue to do so. If their employees cannot work from home then they can go in to work. However, key to this is that businesses must have suitable arrangements in place to comply with the government, PHE and HSE guidance such that any work activities can proceed safely."

"Whilst these bodies have all issued guidance throughout this pandemic, the prime minister indicated during last night's address to the nation that the government will shortly be issuing 'guidance for employers to make workplaces COVID-secure'.

Businesses should ensure they are ready to react promptly by putting in place arrangements to comply with this latest guidance as well as the relevant regulations that apply to health and safety in the workplace."

Mr Johnson did not use last night's address to go into any detail on PPE or masks, or the government's trace and track app, though his reference to monitoring progress "locally, regionally and nationally" was probably in reference to that technology.

"We've been through the initial peak, but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous," he concluded, and sought to reassure the nation that the UK would come back from the virus "more resilient, more innovative and more economically dynamic".

Quite how long he thinks this will take remains unclear, but the Bank of England last week talked about a year-long recovery, in a return to normal that governor Andrew Bailey said would be more rapid than the global financial crisis.

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