We look at some of the major changes announced by the government on 22 September which are expected to remain in place over the next 6 months. Please note that the following applies to England only.
Going to work
The latest guidance states that:
"To help contain the virus, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so over the winter. Where an employer, in consultation with their employee, judges an employee can carry out their normal duties from home they should do so."
Although this is potentially open to interpretation it does seem clear that there has been a reversal of the Prime Minister's recent statement that he was giving employers more discretion to bring employees back to work. It may be wise for employers to review their most recent policy on brining employees back to office. Perhaps a move back to the "optional phase" might be one of the primary options.
A subset of this issue is using public transport to get to work. The latest guidance states, more generally on public transport, that:
"You should walk or cycle if you can. However, if this is not possible, you can use public transport or drive. If you are using public transport, you should follow the safer travel guidance for passengers".
When using public transport, it is a legal requirement to wear a face covering.
The guidance also states that:
"Work gatherings are exempt from the gatherings limit of 6. Where a group includes someone who is working, they are not counted as part of the gatherings limit."
The guidance gives an example where if a tradesperson goes into a household of six, then that person is not breaching the limit if they are there for work.
Clinically extremely vulnerable ("CEV") groups
The latest shielding guidance before the announcement had been paused – this remains the case but the latest guidance states that:
"You can continue to go to work as long as the workplace is Covid-19 Secure but should carry on working from home wherever possible".
This means that, as before, those in the CEV category are encouraged to work from home although they can go to work if their workplace is Covid-19 Secure. Employers should continue to monitor this group of employees carefully, especially from a health & safety perspective, and that no unnecessary risks are taken.
Other headline changes
- Penalties for not wearing a mask or gathering in groups of more than six will increase to £200 on the first offence.
- Retail staff and customers in indoor hospitality venues will have to wear masks from Thursday 24 September, except when seated at a table to eat or drink.
- Also from 24 September, all pubs, bars and restaurants will be restricted to table service only. Takeaways can continue. Hospitality venues must close at 22.00.
- From Monday 28 September, only 15 people will be able to attend weddings and civil partnerships, in groups of six. Funerals can take place with up to 30 people.
- Also from 28 September, you can only play indoor adult sports in groups of less than six.
- The planned return of spectators to sports venues will not go ahead from 1 October.