Lockdown 3: workplace implications
The Prime Minister has announced that England has entered a third national lockdown. This means that people in England must not leave their home unless they have a legally permitted reason. The Government has issued new lockdown guidance and the legislation incorporating the new rules came into force on 6 January 2021.
Can employees go to work?
As with second lockdown and the Tier 4 restrictions, the legislation provides that going to work is permitted but only if this is reasonably necessary and it is not reasonably possible for the employee to work from home. Employers considering whether to allow employees to attend the workplace will need to consider this question carefully. Those who would normally work in an office-based environment will be expected to work from home wherever reasonably possible. The guidance says employers should take every possible step to facilitate homeworking, including providing suitable IT and other equipment to enable remote working.
Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable are again being advised to shield. They should not therefore be leaving home to go to work and will be receiving a further letter explaining what shielding means for them. They can of course work from home. If working from home is not possible, then furlough may be an option for employees who qualify. Otherwise those who are shielding may be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay or Employment Support Allowance.
Examples given in the guidance of jobs which employees cannot reasonably do from home include, but are not limited to, national infrastructure, construction and manufacturing. Public sector employees working in essential services, including childcare or education, should continue to go into work, according to the guidance.
What about travelling to work?
Where employees have to go to work (because they cannot reasonably work from home), they are allowed to travel to work, even if this means leaving the area where they live. International travel is also permitted where necessary for work purposes, subject to any local restrictions in place in the destination country.
Those travelling to work should walk or cycle where possible and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. They should avoid car sharing with anyone from outside their household or support bubble. Those needing to use public transport should follow the safer travel guidance.
What about the restrictions on meeting others?
The restrictions on meeting other people do not apply at work, so where employees cannot reasonably work from home and have to go to work they will be able to mix with other people. However, COVID-19 secure guidelines, including social distancing measures, should of course be followed to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.
What about staying away from home?
The restrictions on staying away from home do not apply where staying away is necessary for work purposes. Hotels and other accommodation are allowed to remain open for employees to use where necessary for work purposes.
What does this mean for employers?
Many of the rules will be familiar from previous lockdowns but employers considering allowing employees into the workplace should always check the latest legislation and guidance.
As schools are closed once again, employees with younger children may struggle to combine home-schooling and childcare with work. Employers should try to be flexible and should also be prepared for more requests from employees to be furloughed.
The articles published on this website, current at the date of publication, are for reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your own circumstances should always be sought separately before taking any action.