Today’s announcement didn’t contain any significant surprises for employers. The government have remained resolute in their aim to end national restrictions for England on 2 December, and it has now been confirmed that this will take place. Nevertheless, the expected return to the previous Tier system does not mean that everything will go back to the way it was last month, with stricter restrictions now expected depending on Tier.
As before, the government are continuing to encourage homeworking across all Tiers, with guidance now being strengthened to state that this should be permitted where possible. Indeed, new guidance released in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s statement outlines that the government wish to be ‘very clear’ those that can work from home should do so. Businesses across England who had started to bring staff back into the office due to changing restrictions will now need to take this on board, at least until the new year.
While many businesses can reopen from next week, there are still some that will need to remain closed depending on the Tier, most notably hospitality venues in Tier 3 that cannot serve takeaways. If a business is told to stay shut, they will need to consider the continued use of the furlough scheme, if possible, to retain jobs through this period. If a previous agreement to place employees on furlough specified that this would end when national restrictions did, employers will need to seek a separate agreement with them to extend it.
All eyes will now turn to Thursday’s announcement as to which Tier each area will fall into. For now, employers should continue to follow the rules in place under the national lockdown, hopefully with the promise of further clarity later in the week. What remains absolutely certain is that despite promising vaccine news, normal is still some time away, and employers must prepare themselves for this.
Alan Price, CEO of BrightHR