12th May, 2020 Read time 4 minutes

Next steps for the UK and guidance on returning to work

This week the government has given some further guidance after an initial speech on Sunday 10th May. Boris Johnson has announced his plans to ease lockdown restrictions in England so that we can begin to restart the economy.

So what has changed?

Some things have changed, and you can now meet one person from outside of your household in an outdoor setting, such as a park, if you are more than 2m (6ft) apart. The government has insisted it will impose higher fines for people who break social distancing rules.

From 1 June, nurseries in England are expected to reopen – plus primary school Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 classes. The Government says its ambition is for all primary school children to return to school before the summer for a month if feasible – but class sizes are likely to be smaller than normal.

Secondary schools and further education colleges have also been told they should prepare for face-to-face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils in June, as they have their exams next year. Meanwhile, there is uncertainty over whether students will be able to go to university in person in September or whether teaching may continue online.

The rules on exercise are also being relaxed, meaning people in England will be able to spend more time outdoors from Wednesday 13th May “for leisure purposes”, which does include sunbathing and reading in outdoor public areas.

There will be no limit to the amount of exercise allowed, and activities such as golf, angling and tennis will be permitted again but only alone or with one other person. Households will also be able to drive to other destinations in England – such as parks and beaches. But have been told they are not to travel to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Cultural and sporting events such as football will be able to take place behind closed doors for broadcast from 1 June.

On 1 June at the earliest, if the five tests are met, non-essential retailers can open if they can follow the social distancing guidelines. The government wants this reopening to happen in phases. On 4 July at the earliest, if the five tests are met, then some remaining businesses including pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, hotels, cinemas and places of worship can open, as long as they can meet social distancing measures.


The new rules around working during coronavirus

Boris Johnson made it clear that people who can work from home in England should continue to do so “for the foreseeable future”.

But the government says that those who cannot, should work if their workplace is open. However, they should try not to use public transport and must practice social distancing.

There has been new guidance from the government on making them safe for staff during the coronavirus outbreak, which covers a range of industries which the government says should now re-open, such as construction and factories.

These guidelines include the frequent cleaning of surfaces and equipment, staggering arrival and departure times and, for office workers, holding meetings remotely and avoiding the use of hot desks.

New guidelines for working during coronavirus

As mentioned, the government is continually trying to provide guidance for a range of industries around protecting staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Their so called ‘back to work’ guidelines apply to those in areas such as:

  • Supermarkets
  • Construction and manufacturing
  • Labs and research facilities
  • Takeaways and deliveries at restaurants and cafes
  • Tradesmen, cleaners and others who work in people’s homes
  • Those who are facilitating trade or transport goods

Non-essential retail, restaurants, pubs, bars, gyms and leisure centres will remain closed, and will re-open in a phased approach when the government feel it is safer to do so.

The guidelines give advice on the following:

  • Managing risk (including risks assessments)
  • Who should go to work and protecting those that are higher risk
  • Social distancing at work, including guidance on arriving and leaving work and moving around building sites
  • Managing customers, visitors and contractors
  • Cleaning and sanitising
  • PPE and face coverings
  • Workforce management
  • Managing incoming and outgoing goods

The guidance includes the suggestion that workstations and tools should not be rotated as they may usually be, meetings should be held virtually if possible, and that surfaces should be washed regularly to reduce risk. Risk assessments should also be carried out as soon as possible, and these results should be shared with the workforce.

These guidelines hope to assist those who are unsure about how to approach the re-opening of their workplace and the protection of their staff. Further guidance can be found here.

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