May 11, 2020
Authored by: Rebecca Harding-Hill and Mark Kaye
Last night, the UK Prime Minister made his long awaited announcement on the roadmap to easing lockdown in England. As anticipated in the days leading up to the announcement, the changes to the lockdown arrangements (described by the TUC as a “recipe for confusion”) have been tentative. From an employment perspective, the key points to note are:
- the government guidance has now shifted so that those employees who work in the construction and manufacturing sector should be actively encouraged to return to work, if they cannot work from home;
- given the impact of social distancing on the public transport network, employees returning to the workplace, will need to find alternative ways to travel; and
- employers will need to ensure that social distancing and other health and safety measures are in place at the workplace.
Limited public transport capacity is likely to pose a significant conundrum for employers. Whilst they may be able to put in place innovative social distancing measures, it remains to be seen how staff will be to travel into work. This is likely to be even more problematic as we move into the winter months when, for example, cycling to work will not be a practical solution.
Employers also need to balance the desire to reopen with ensuring that they provide a safe working environment and that their employees are comfortable returning to work. Sector specific safety protocols, designed to make the workplace COVID secure, are expected to be published by the government shortly. Employers will need to comply with the protocols that impact their business sector.
We await the Prime Minister’s more detailed statement to the House of Commons later today and the much anticipated 50 page explanatory document. However, for many employees, it is likely that working from home will remain the new normal for some time to come.
BCLP has assembled a COVID-19 Employment & Labor taskforce to assist clients with employment law issues across various jurisdictions. You can contact the taskforce at: COVID-19HRLabour&EmploymentIssues@bclplaw.com. You can also view other thought leadership, guidance, and helpful information on our dedicated COVID-19 / Coronavirus resources page.