Covid-19 Employment Law Update – 12 May 2020

The Government’s Plan to Rebuild

Following the Prime Minister’s Sunday evening address to the nation and Monday’s news conference, the government has published the document “Our Plan to Rebuild: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy”:

Step One of the government’s Plan to Rebuild sets out measures which take effect from Wednesday 13 May 2020 in England only:

  • For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible;
  • All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is in a sector of the economy which is allowed to be open under the statutory regulations, e.g. food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories; and
  • As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “Covid-19 Secure” guidelines:

We expect the new “Covid-19 Secure” guidelines to be updated further today and in the days ahead, providing the finer details on how employers should safely operate their workplaces.  Our employment team will publish a summary of those guidelines as soon as we have a fuller picture of them.  In the meantime, our employment department has already published some initial advice on steps that clients can take to prepare for a return to the workplace.

Additionally, clients may be guided by the following points set out government’s Plan to Rebuild:

  • Commuting – everyone (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible. If they can, people should instead choose to cycle, walk or drive, to minimise the number of people with whom they come into close contact. Social distancing guidance on public transport must be followed rigorously. As with workplaces, transport operators should follow appropriate guidance to make their services comply with the soont-to-be-published “Covid-19 Secure” guidelines;
  • Face-coverings – the Government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering (covering mouth and nose, including homemade cloth coverings) in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and when they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport; and
  • International travel – the Government will introduce measures and restrictions at the UK border:
    • All international travellers will need to supply their contact and accommodation information on arrival and will be strongly advised to download and use the NHS contact tracing app;
    • All international arrivals not on a short list of exemptions (which already includes French nationals) will need to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days on arrival into the UK. Where international travellers are unable to demonstrate where they would self-isolate, they will be required to do so in accommodation arranged by the Government;
    • All journeys within the Common Travel Area (United Kingdom, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands) will be exempt from these measures; and
    • International travel measures will not come into force on 13 May 2020 but will be introduced as soon as possible.

Step Two of the Plan to Rebuild aims to take effect no earlier than Monday 1 June 2020 and will see a phased return to early year settings and schools, the opening of non-essential retail, and cultural and sporting events to take place without spectators and for broadcast only.

Step Three of the Plan to Rebuild will take effect no earlier than 4 July 2020 and contemplates opening some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care businesses like hair salons, hospitality, and leisure facilities like cinemas as long as they meet the COVID-19 Secure guidelines.

Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) WFH security checklist

The ICO has published a “Working from home – security checklists for employers”. It says care should be taken to ensure that homeworking solutions are being used securely. The general principles are that:

  • employers should have clear policies, procedures & guidance for staff who are remote working;
  • employers should use the most up-to-date version of the remote access solution;
  • employees should be reminded to use unique and complex passwords; and
  • employers and employees should check that multi-factor authentication is available and configured where possible.

Should you require any assistance with your employment arrangements during this difficult period, do not hesitate to contact the co-head partners of our employment department.  Ewan Keen can be reached at 020 3206 2724 or ewan.keen@smab.co.uk or Tamara Ludlow at 020 3206 2739 or tamara.ludlow@smab.co.uk.