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The Government has published guidance on how different employers should prepare to reopen their workplaces as the Chancellor announces the furlough scheme will be extended until the end of October.
The Government has set out guidance for employers in different sectors on how they can reopen workplaces as safety as possible from Wednesday as the Chancellor stated that the furlough scheme will extend to the end of October.
The guidance states that those who can work from home should, but that “all workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open”. It gives as examples workers in food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution, scientific research in laboratories “and so on”. The only exceptions, which must remain closed, are non-essential retail, restaurants, pubs, bars, gyms and leisure centres.
Guidance for employers says that they should carry out Covid-19 risk assessments of workplaces to ensure social distancing is maintained between workers, cleaning processes are reinforced and starts are staggered to lower the number of people who are in the workplace at any one time. Employers have also been urged to create one-way walk-throughs, open more entrances and exits and change seating layouts in break-rooms.
Other safety measures for office and lab workers include back-to-back working rather than people facing each other, the use of screens, enforcement of fixed team working to reduce contacts, outside meetings and a ban on hot desking. For shop workers, payments should be contactless, changing rooms – if deemed safe to use – should be cleaned between each visitor, cafes should be closed and handling of merchandise should be limited.
In construction, break times, arrival and departure should be staggered, site access restricted and support staff encouraged to work from home. In factories, plants and warehouses, screens and barriers should be used if possible to separate work spaces, production lines should be reviewed to space people apart and packed lunches should be provided where possible. For those who do home deliveries or visits in-person appointments should be avoided. No work should be conducted in any households with Covid-19 symptoms or where individuals are shielding, unless it is to fix an urgent problem. For drivers or couriers, drop-offs should be contactless and toilet breaks may need to be booked in. For those selling takeaway meals, the guidance recommends laminated menus, restrictions on kitchen access, cleaning of delivery vehicles between shifts, on-site washing of uniforms and getting customers to wait in their cars, if possible.
The Government says people should continue to avoid public transport “wherever possible” and maintain social distancing, for instance, by staggering journeys or choosing less busy routes. It is also advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering – not a mask – in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others who they do not normally meet. Face coverings are not compulsory, however.
HR experts are urging employers to proceed with caution and consider how they can reduce risks and reassure workers.
Other guidance says that those in the clinically extremely vulnerable cohort will continue to be advised to shield themselves at home and to avoid face to face contact “for some time yet” with more support to be announced soon, including on PPE for care workers.
The Government has also announced its estimated timings for reopening the economy, subject to continued monitoring. In Step Two, starting from 1st June, some pupils will return to return, non-essential retail will open and some behind closed doors sports and cultural fixtures will take place.
As part of Step Two, the Government is considering a range of options to “reduce the most harmful social effects” of lockdown, such as not being able to see family. In particular, it is looking at whether, when and how it can safely change the regulations to allow people to expand their household group to include one other household in the same exclusive group.
Step Three is expected to date from 4th July and to include the opening of at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons) hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (like cinemas).
The Government says: “We urge employers to take socially responsible decisions and listen to the concerns of their staff. Employers and employees should come to a pragmatic agreement about their working arrangements.”
Meanwhile, the Chancellor has announced the furlough scheme will be extended by another four months to the end of October, with workers continuing to receive 80% of their current salary.
From the start of August, furloughed workers will also be able to return to work part time with employers being asked to pay a percentage towards the salaries of their furloughed staff.
The employer payments will substitute the contribution the government is currently making, ensuring that staff continue to receive 80% of their salary, up to £2,500 a month.