April 28, 2021

What’s next on the roadmap out of lockdown?

April saw lockdown ease with the reopening of hairdressers, swimming pools and beer gardens.

So, what’s happening next as lockdown is slowly lifted across the UK? And how can employers and HR teams get prepared? Read our blog post to find out the next steps, plus, what are the key considerations employers need to make?

Next step: 17 May 2021

No earlier than 17 May, the government will look to continue easing limits on seeing friends and family wherever possible (although gatherings over 30 will still be illegal). They will be allowing people to decide on the appropriate level of risk for their circumstances. Indoor hospitality will start again and up to six people or two households will be permitted to mix indoors.

Lockdown lifts completely: 21 June 2021

Not before 21 June 2021, the government hopes that all legal limits on social contact should be removed and the remaining premises (including nightclubs) can reopen.

Note the above information is a short summary of the roadmap and it does not cover the differences between England, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For full details, please visit the government website.

What should employers be considering?

Health & Safety

Ensure you’ve put steps in place to protect your employees. The government states two steps that every employer must take:

  1. Conduct a specific COVID-19 risk assessment.
  2. Put in place a Health and Safety Policy which incorporates measures to contain the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Failure to follow this guidance may be considered a breach of UK health and safety law. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide guidance on the government requirements to make the workplace COVID-secure: find out more here.

Returning to the workplace

The advice remains for those who can work from home to continue to do so. However, as we move forward through the roadmap out of lockdown, employers may look to get employees back into the workplace.

Employers will need to review the safety measures they have in place and update risk assessments as more staff members make their return. This will be very important for any employees who have been shielding and will be making a return to the workplace for the first time (since March 2020). The shielding message for those people most at risk from Covid-19 has already come to an end (on 31 March 2021).

If an employee is cautious about making a return to the workplace due to Covid-19:

  • Ensure the risk assessment has been shared with the employee.
  • Explain the safety measures that have been put in place.
  • Check if there any underlying health issues that are the reason why the employee does not want to return to the workplace. If so, consider if a report from, for example, the employees GP that may help facilitate a return to the workplace.

Ensure you take HR advice on the steps to follow in each specific case if the employee is still unwilling to make a return to the workplace.

Vaccinations

It’s best practice for employers to support employees attending their vaccination appointment. Employers should remind employees, as with any medical appointment, to speak to their line manager in advance.

Furlough extension

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30 September 2021. Here are a few important things to note:

  • For claims after the 1 May 2021 employees must have been on the employers RTI payroll before 2 March 2021.
  • The government are continuing to contribute 80% towards wages for hours not worked (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month until 30 June 2021).
  • After this date employers will be required to contribute 10% from 1 July 2021 towards wages for hours not worked and then 20% in August and September 2021.

Flexible working requests

As we return to the workplace you may receive requests from employees who would like to make the change a permanent one or have the opportunity to work more flexibly, either from an office or from home.

Remember:

  • All employees with 26 week’s continuous employment at the time of application have the right to request flexible working (i.e. to change their hours, timing or location of work).
  • Only one request can be made in any 12-month period.
  • Please take HR advice and follow your policy which should comply with the ACAS code of practice on flexible working requests.

Continuing working from home

There are lots of considerations an employer should make if they are thinking about making home working a more permanent arrangement for their employees.

Homeworking is a potential minefield with legal, contractual, health and safety, data protection and IT security all at stake. Not all employees can or want to work from home on a more permanent basis. Feelings of isolation, difficulty focusing and less motivation are the 3 most common challenges people face working from home. Employers should take HR advice on the procedure to follow and consultation that would be required.

At every stage of the roadmap out of lockdown, employers should consider if it will have any impact on their employees.

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About the author

Louise Gillibrand

About the author

Louise Gillibrand

Louise is a generalist Human Resource professional with over 18 years’ experience across a variety of sectors including care, medical, retail and telecommunications, and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Louise provides sound practical and business-focused advice in line with employment legislation and best practice, and has worked in partnership with line managers, senior operational managers and directors. Typical consultancy projects include advice on complex employee relations issues, redundancy programmes, restructures, TUPE, recruitment, policy writing and grievance/disciplinary handling. In addition to her generalist knowledge she is experienced in delivering training on a wide variety of employment law and HR subjects. Louise joined the Moorepay consultancy team in October 2007.

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