Boris Johnson has this week set out the roadmap for the reopening of society and businesses in England as we start to emerge from lockdown.
The headline news is that the earliest date for when businesses can reopen is the 12th April. And this will only be for some types of business.
What does the roadmap for reopening in England look like?
The roadmap sees the reopening split down into 4 Steps. With each step around 5 weeks apart.
Key dates include
Step 1 – 8th and 29th March
Step 2 – no earlier than the 12th April
Step 3 – no earlier than 17th May
Step 4 – no earlier than 21st June
Progress to each step is determined by analysis of data linked to the vaccine programme, infections and COVID-19 variants.
When can businesses reopen?
Can businesses reopen in Step 1?
No, there is no allowance for any other business than those currently classed as essential to reopen in Step 1 of the reopening plan. Step 1 sees schools reopen from the 8th March and some loosening of rules around outdoor social contact from the 29th March.
Which businesses can reopen in Step 2?
Step 2 sees more news around when businesses can start to reopen. Step 2 starts no earlier than the 12thApril.
Step 2 allows for the reopening of businesses including:
- All shops
- Hairdressers, beauty salons and other similar personal care services
- Hospitality venues to be allowed to serve customers outdoors only. Abiding by the rule of 6 or two households’ rule.
- Outdoor attractions such as zoos and theme parks. But they must not allow household mixing indoors.
- Self-contained holiday accommodation
Which businesses can reopen in Step 3?
Step 3 sees further restrictions ease but no earlier than 17th May.
In terms of business which can reopen in Step 3, this includes:
- Indoor hospitality (rule of 6 or two households).
- Indoor attractions and entertainment e.g., cinemas, soft play
Which businesses can reopen in Step 4?
The aim of Step 4, which happens no earlier than the 21st June, is for all businesses to reopen. This includes nightclubs, which have been shut for the duration of the pandemic. It is also important to note that work from home guidance where possible will stay in place until a more in-depth government review of social distancing is completed ahead of Step 4.
The government guidance notes that this ‘review will also inform guidance on working from home – people should continue to work from home where they can until this review is complete.’
What needs to be in place for businesses to reopen safely?
Now that businesses have an idea of when they can reopen, they will need to ensure that they do so safely. Areas businesses are likely to need to give consideration to include:
Complying with the guidance
Businesses will need to ensure that they keep within the government guidance relating to each step when it comes to reopening.
For example, ensuring that the rule of 6 or two household social contact rules are obeyed whilst people are on their premises.
Refer to the full details of the government’s roadmap for the most up to date information.
COVID secure workplace
In order for businesses to operate at the moment, they have to meet COVID secure guidelines. And it doesn’t seem as if this requirement is going to end in the coming months.
Many businesses put in place COVID secure measures in 2020 when they were able to open in line with guidance between periods of lockdown. And as such will be used to operating within COVID secure workplace guidance. This should mean once reopening begins, businesses are able to reactivate their COVID secure workplace policies and procedures.
It is likely that COVID secure guidance will be updated by the government over the coming weeks and months so as a business it is important to work with the latest guidance and ensure you are complying with all of the relevant requirements.
COVID testing at work
For those who cannot work from home, it is likely that regular testing will become commonplace in the workplace.
Much has been written about testing and the news that the workplace rapid testing programme is being rolled out further to businesses who employ people who cannot work from home and therefore have to go into their place of work during lockdown.
On the 7th February the government announced that businesses employing 50 people or more would be eligible for the workplace rapid testing programme. Previously only those employing 250 staff, or more were eligible.
If you employ more than 50 staff, you can sign up the testing programme here.
For those businesses who employ fewer than 50 staff you can still access rapid flow tests for your employees even if they show no COVID-19 symptoms. You can visit your local authority website to get a test at a local test centre or use the postcode checker to find your nearest centre. Find out more on the gov.uk site.
Vaccinations for employees
Much has also been written about vaccinations and whether employers can make the vaccine a mandatory requirement for their employees.
This BBC article sets out current thinking regarding vaccinations and that it could potentially be legal for employers to make the vaccine a compulsory requirement for new employees that they hire. But that it is very unlikely that employers could make it compulsory for their existing employees to get the vaccination in order to keep their job.
Theoretically, as we move forward, we could see employers take a stance regarding the vaccine and it could become a mandatory requirement in some professions.
At Anthony Jones we appreciate that despite some positive news giving businesses an idea of when reopening can begin, that this has been, and continues to be, a very difficult time. If you have any questions about an existing business insurance policy or are reviewing your business insurance needs at this time do not hesitate to get in touch with our team of friendly experts who will be more than happy to help. Contact us on 020 8290 9080 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org