The Prime Minister’s announcement on 23 March was that the most important action we can all take, in fighting coronavirus, is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.
In terms of places of work, the significant announcements were:
- The government published a list of the businesses and premises that must close. This includes cafés, bars, restaurants, clothing shops, hotels, libraries, cinemas, gyms and places of worship.
- This list contains a number of exceptions, including takeaways and delivery services, online retail services, postal services, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks and bicycle shops. These can remain open for the time being.
Taken together the current position is that those businesses/premises that are not on the “must close” list can remain open for the time being. Employers must take steps to ensure they meet their health and safety obligations, which includes social distancing of two metres where practicable. Where employees can work from home, they should do so.
The Prime Minister also said ‘only go outside for food, health reasons or essential work’. However, with a wide variety of workplaces still open and therefore many people still working and travelling to and from work, it is important that there remains a focus on social distancing and employers are mindful of their duties in safeguarding their employees in this regard. The position will be under review by the government and we will update you as further information becomes available.