Employment Alert- COVID-19 Winter Plan

24 Nov 2020

COVID-19 Winter Plan

What’s happening?

Following on from the Prime Minister’s announcement of the return to a three tier system in England from 2 December, the Government has published a “COVID-19 Winter Plan”.

The Winter Plan sets out a new, more restrictive, approach to the tier system that will impact on employment practices over the winter. The plan contains tailored guidance for specific industries, for example when pubs, restaurants, shops, gyms and other leisure facilities can open. However, for the wider business community, the Government says it will clarify whether an employer can or cannot require an employee to come to work.

Why is this important?

Pre 5 November 2020 – the tier system guidance said that employers should allow employees ‘to work from home if they were able to do so’.

During the current lockdown (5 November to 2 December 2020), employees should only go to work where it is not ‘reasonably possible’ for them to work from home.

The Winter Plan confirms that further guidance will follow. However, the Plan says this about the period after 2 December 2020:

The Government encourages employers to enable a greater degree of home working, and will strengthen guidance to be very clear that anyone who can work from home should do so.

The Plan is not expected to change in relation to employees who are unable to work from home – they should continue to go to work. However, a new development is that the Government has acknowledged that attendance in the workplace may be needed to address mental health issues or concerns. This potentially creates a scenario in which someone who is physically able to work from home will nonetheless be able to go to the workplace.

The Plan also states that Local Authorities will have strengthened powers to issue improvement and restriction notices to businesses that are breaching COVID-secure rules. They will also have the ability to immediately close premises that are not complying with COVID-secure regulations.

What should you do?

  1. Review and familiarise yourself with the employment provisions contained in the COVID-19 Winter Plan.
  2. Establish how the tiered approach will directly impact on your business (this is most relevant to those in the leisure and hospitality industry).
  3. Continue to direct employees to work from home if they can do so.
  4. For those employees who are unable to work from home, ensure that the measures you have put in place to provide a COVID-secure workplace continue to be observed.
  5. Keep in contact with staff about your organisation’s approach in light of this new Winter Plan. Consider and take into account any particular concerns that your employees may raise with you, including mental health issues.

If you need more information please contact us on 0800 2800 421 or email Employment.Alert@trethowans.com to find out how we can help.

Author

Kira McKane

Solicitor