On March 23, the UK Prime Minister announced the Government’s decision to ban gatherings of more than two people and implement strict limits on exercise. All non-essential shops will be closed, and people will only be allowed outside to buy food or medication, exercise alone once a day, or to travel to work if absolutely necessary (More info). The Government recommends the public to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces such as shops, trains, and buses to help reduce the spread of coronavirus (More info).
The UK government has published three sets of guidance aimed at businesses and employers to help them limit the spread of the coronavirus at the workplace.
Businesses are encouraged to inform the employees about the measures that are taken to reduce the risk. It is also recommended that businesses encourage employees to work from home, wherever possible. Employers should also ensure that employees who are in a vulnerable group are strongly advised to follow social distancing guidance (More info). They should provide hand sanitizer and tissues for staff, as well as places to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, and encourage everyone to do so regularly. Posters, leaflets, and other informative materials should be available at the workplace to inform and remind everyone of the public health advice. Additionally, the Government has declared that employees who follow advice to stay at home and cannot work as a result will be eligible for statutory sick pay (SSP) (See here).
The Government has also prepared a support package for businesses in their effort to limit the spread of Covid-19. It is declared that the government will introduce legislation to allow small-sized and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. Also, a business rate retail holiday will be in place for retail, hospitality, and leisure businesses in England for the 2020 to 2021 tax year. Other financial and tax support will also be available for businesses in this package (See here).
In addition, guidance for employees has also been published to inform them of the good practices to follow with regards to remote working and sick pay (See here).
Instructions for cleaning workplaces and offices have been determined (More info). The minimum PPE to be worn for cleaning an area where a person with possible or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) is disposable gloves and an apron. Also, disposable cloths or paper roll and disposable mop heads, should be used to clean all hard surfaces, floors, chairs, door handles, and sanitary fittings.
A set of Guidance has also been specifically published for UK businesses that trade internationally (See here). The purpose of this Guidance is to provide assistance in terms of supply chains, intellectual property, and financial support for UK businesses that export or deliver goods and services abroad and have been impacted by the spread of coronavirus.
Additionally, a set of guidance was published on March 16 for shipping and seaports in order to assist ships (including cargo vessels, ferries, and cruise ships) and seaports in providing advice to staff on addressing coronavirus (COVID-19), on ships and in seaports (See here).
The Government has set up a new ‘support finder’ tool which will help businesses and self-employed people in the UK to quickly and easily determine what financial support is available to them during the coronavirus pandemic (See here). It has also decided that workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 are now able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years (More info).
Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
– Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response