As you will be aware following a rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide in the final months of 2020 – both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon both announced national lockdowns in England and Scotland on 4 January – with Wales and Northern Ireland in lockdowns since December.

Important!

As this is an ever-changing situation, it’s important to be aware of the latest rules and guidance especially as the rules differ between each country and in some cases, by area. Regional guidance can be found at the official sites:

  • England’s can be accessed here
  • Welsh guidelines can be found here
  • Scotland’s regulations are  here
  • Northern Ireland’s guidance is here

For businesses that can stay open during lockdown

Businesses permitted to stay open should make sure they’ve assessed the risks from the transmission of COVID-19 in their workplace and put measures in place to protect those working or visiting the workplace. Reviewing your COVID risk assessment and making sure it is up to date and reflects your current working environment is essential.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) recently published eight ‘priority actions’ that business owners must take to keep staff (and customers) safe when in the workplace[KL1] :

  1. Complete a COVID-19 risk assessment – have you reviewed, updated your COVID risk assessment, and distributed it to your employees?
  2. Clean more often – can you set up more frequent cleaning regimes throughout the day to reduce the risk of transmission?
  3. Ask customers to wear face coverings
  4. Make sure everyone is social distancing – this may involve changing layouts to allow people to work further apart, staggering/changing working times or implementing one-way systems and walkways or using mitigation such as screens.
  5. Consider ventilation – the law requires good ventilation in workplaces to reduce concentration of the virus in the air, therefore lowering the risk of infection.
  6. Take part in relevant Test and Tracing programmes.
  7. Understand how to manage a situation where an employee presents symptoms – it’s important to have a policy that is distributed to your employees so they understand what to do if they test positive, who they should report to and what self-isolation obligations any co-workers may have.
  8. Consider the mental health and wellbeing aspects of COVID-19

Here we’ve created a brief overview of the different devolved government’s guidelines for workplaces that can and can’t remain open during this latest lockdown.

Nation

Differences in the rules for going to work

England

You may only go to work if you cannot reasonably work from home.

Workplaces should follow COVID-secure guidelines including carrying out a COVID-19 risk assessment, introducing increased hygiene and cleaning procedures, maintaining social distancing where possible, and where this is not possible, steps must be taken to manage transmission risk.

Scotland

Currently it is an offence to leave your home to carry out work which could be carried out at home.

Businesses are advised only to reopen if their business is listed in the relevant phase, and they are confident that the workforce can practice social distancing and comply with Health & Safety standards.

Wales

People are advised to work from home where possible.

Welsh government guidance states that where it’s not possible to work from home “employers must comply with a physical distancing duty, which means all reasonable measures must be taken to ensure a two-metre distance is maintained between people while working.”

Northern Ireland

People are advised to work from home where possible.

Workplaces not required to close can continue to operate but must follow social distancing and workplace safety guidance. The Department for the Economy has published a list of priority business sectors which should be supported to reopen.

Social distancing guidelines

Social distancing is still a key part of the strategy to avoid the spread of the virus – especially where businesses can remain open and their staff are in the workplace.

Social distancing guidelines vary slightly between the devolved governments. We’ve summarised the key differences in this handy chart.

England

Scotland

Wales

Northern Ireland

Social distancing

1 metre plus mitigation – where possible, people should remain 2 metres apart, if this is not possible, they should take precautions to limit transmission.

People must remain 2 metres apart from each other. 1 metre distancing applies in some sectors. Children under 12 do not have to social distance.

Government guidance is that people must remain 2 metres apart from each other. By law, employers must take all reasonable measures to ensure a 2 metres distance.

Social distancing still means 2 metres, but can be reduced to 1 metre plus mitigation in some settings.

         

Working on people’s homes

If your business involves working on or in people’s homes, there are certain rules you need to abide by to keep these visits safe and COVID-secure. We’ve summarised the devolved governments’ guidelines below.

England

Scotland

Wales

Northern Ireland

Where necessary work can still go ahead as long as COVID-secure guidance is followed.

People should only go into a house to carry out or deliver essential work or services.

Repairs, maintenance, activities related to home moves, construction work, gardening or domestic cleaners can continue as long as safe procedures are followed.

Tradespeople and other professionals can continue to go into people’s houses to carry out work such as repairs, installations, and deliveries.