Update 5th January 2021
At 8pm last night, Boris Johnson announced that England will enter Alert Level 5 – National Lockdown – with immediate effect. The lockdown is set to last until at least 15th February 2021.
In summary, the restrictions which directly impact employment and businesses are:
- People are told to “Stay Home; Protect the NHS; Save Lives”
- People should only leave their home where they have a ’reasonable excuse’
- All those that can work from home should do so
- Work which cannot be done from home, can continue (including tradespeople, nannies and cleaners)
- Construction & manufacturing workplaces can remain open
- All schools will close (but will remain open for vulnerable and key worker children)
- All colleges and universities will close
- All nurseries and early years settings will remain open
- All non-essential retail will close but can remain open for click and collect and delivery
- Pubs, bars and restaurants will have to close, but can still provide takeaway (excluding alcohol) and delivery (including alcohol)
- Indoor & outdoor leisure facilities and entertainment venues will have to close – gyms, swimming pools, beauty salons, hairdressers, bowling alleys, cinemas etc
- Avoid all non-essential travel by private or public transport
- Overnight stays outside of your household or support bubble are prohibited
- Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be asked to resume shielding and should not attend work
- Support and childcare bubbles continue to be allowed
What is the Impact?
The increased restrictions may mean that you have to close some, or all, of your business. You may need to move employees back to working from home or place more on furlough. All previous guidance on how to do this remains relevant, but if you need further support or would like to talk it through, then please get in touch.
The government have confirmed that there will be no additional financial support packages available. So, businesses are advised to make the most of what is already out there.
For those previously in Tier 4, the changes to operational business may not be drastically different. However, with the closure of schools, there is the distinct possibility that this is going to cause significant disruption within your workforce.
Many employees with school age children will now be responsible for looking after their children at home and home schooling them until at least February half-term (which ends on Sunday 21st February). 7 weeks from now.
In this scenario, the key is talking to your employees who have children to find out their situation. Ask them:
How are they going to cope?
Will they still be able to come to the office (if this is still necessary and they can’t work from home)?
Could they work from home? Would they be willing to? Do they have the equipment to do so?
If they are already working from home, how do they think this will impact them?
Do they need to work different hours, or have an increased level of flexibility?
Would they like to take some time off?
In terms of support employers can offer, there are several options available:
Working from Home – for some or all of the time if not already doing so.
Flexibility – around hours and days of work to be able to fit around childcare responsibilities.
Childcare Bubbles – employees may not be aware that they can form a childcare bubble with another household for any children under the age of 14. Employees may also want to consider enlisting family members to help with school teaching and support virtually via Zoom for example.
Furlough – if an employee meets the CJRS eligibility criteria and they are unable to work (including from home) due to childcare responsibilities as a direct result of Coronavirus, then they can be furloughed and placed on to the scheme – either fully or flexibly.
Time Off to Care for Dependents – this is emergency, short term, unpaid leave to allow parents to find childcare for the longer term. This will be helpful initially, or if children are ill or showing symptoms in the current climate, but not long term.
Parental Leave – this applies to employees with more than 1 years’ service. Parents are entitled to take up to 4 weeks’ unpaid leave per year for each child under the age of 18 (up to a maximum of 18 weeks).
Annual Leave – to avoid the unpaid element, employees may have some annual leave they can take to cover some or all of the period of absence they may need. Businesses may also wish to consider allowing employees to use some of next years’ allowance or giving a few days extra holiday as a gesture of goodwill.
Those that have been advised to resume shielding will be done so via a text and followed up with a letter. These employees should not be allowed to work and should be placed on furlough.
We appreciate that these are extremely uncertain times for everyone, whether your business is forced to close of not.
The impact of a yet another national lockdown may also have a significant impact on your teams’ mental health and well-being – so now, more than ever, it is crucial to have a plan in place and to keep in touch with them. We’d be more than happy to support you with this.
Here is the link to the full government guidelines for this lockdown - https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/949536/NationalLockdownGuidance.pdf