Prime minister Boris Johnson has detailed a four-step plan to ease England’s lockdown, which if successful could see all legal limits on social contact lifted by 21 June, as long as strict conditions are met (1)
Employers severely affected by the pandemic such as shops, hairdressers, gyms and outdoor hospitality could reopen on 12 April in England under plans set out by the PM.
The roll out of the vaccine has now resulted in more than 20 million people receiving the jab and the number of infections and deaths from Covid-19 have fallen in recent weeks.
The publication of the much-anticipated plan to ease lockdown will have an obvious impact on employment, and here we take a look at three topical points following the announcement.
There are calls for the furlough scheme, also known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, to be extended to protect jobs.
The scheme has been extended three times already and is expected to come to an end on 30 April 2021.
Treasury figures for January are reported to show that 4.7 million people were on the government scheme at the end of the month (2)
Politicians and business leaders across the country have called for the furlough scheme to be extended.
One North East-based politician said many businesses have been devastated by a traumatic year, the people they employ remain in a very precarious place and business of all sizes will suffer an economic long Covid and need all the help they can to battle back (3)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to have indicated that emergency support measures such as the furlough scheme may be extended beyond the end of April in the budget due to be announced on Wednesday, 3 March (4)
Working from home
At the start of the pandemic employees were encouraged to work from home if they could.
The current government advice is that you should continue to do so where possible.
In the last year many employees have adjusted to working from home and there was a feeling that it could become the new normal.
However, the PM is hoping that once lockdown restrictions have been lifted workers will want to return to their workplace.
In a video message Boris Johnson said British people would be ‘consumed again’ by wanting to meet people in person once the economy reopens, and be commuting to city and town centres and holding face-to-face meetings within a ‘few short months.’ (5) But, a study has indicated that working parents are overwhelmingly in favour of a continuation of flexible hours and hybrid working (6)
Once lockdown restrictions have been lifted there may be some employees who do not want to return to the workplace, or that are too afraid to do so for any number of reasons.
If an employee does express such a concern an employer will have to consider a range of factors, including the individual and their circumstances, the type of work in question and the work environment. Any such request should be carefully and fairly considered.
No jab, no job
According to the Times newspaper more than 200,000 frontline NHS staff and care home workers have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 (7)
It is said the figure may fuel fears that vaccine hesitancy among those paid to protect the sick and vulnerable could slow the road out of the pandemic and even delay the reopening of society.
Early figures published showed that three in 10 care home staff had not been vaccinated (8)
More than 435,000 workers in care homes for older adults are eligible in England, but only 304,600 have received a first dose.
The Justice Secretary Robert Buckland has said new employment contracts may require the worker to have been vaccinated against Covid-19 in order for them to take up their role (9)
He said it is unlikely employers will be able to insist workers must have vaccines under existing contracts, but suggested it may be possible in new contracts.
“A reputation built on success”
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(1) Four-step plan to ease England’s lockdown [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 1.3.2021] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-sets-out-roadmap-to-cautiously-ease-lockdown-restrictions
(2) that 4.7 million people were on the government scheme at the end of the month [Internet] www.sky.com [Cited 1.3.2021] https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-more-women-than-men-furloughed-as-4-7m-use-scheme-treasury-data-reveals-12228424
(3) North East-based politician said many businesses have been devastated by a traumatic year [Internet] www.thenorthemecho.co.uk [Cited 1.3.2021] https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/19120985.plea-extend-furlough-amid-dire-situation-unemployment/
(4) Furlough scheme may be extended beyond the end of April [Internet] www.theguardian.com [Cited 1.3.2021] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/feb/28/rishi-sunak-budget-furlough-scheme-coronavirus
(5) Boris Johnson said British people would be ‘consumed again’ by wanting to meet people in person [Internet] www.cityam.com [Cited 1.3.2021] https://www.cityam.com/pm-says-remote-working-wont-be-the-new-normal/
(6) Parents are overwhelmingly in favour of a continuation of flexible hours and hybrid working [Internet] www.solutions.brighthorizons.co.uk [Cited 1.3.2021] https://solutions.brighthorizons.co.uk/modern-family-index-2021
(7) More than 200,000 frontline NHS staff and care home workers have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 [Internet] www.thetimes.co.uk [Cited 1.3.2021] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/more-than-200-000-nhs-and-care-staff-have-not-had-covid-jab-7jz86lnww
(8) Three in 10 care home staff had not been vaccinated [Internet] www.bbc.co.uk [Cited 1.3.2021] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-56112622.
(9) New employment contracts may require the worker to have been vaccinated against Covid-19 [Internet] www.ITV.com [Cited 1.3.2021] https://www.itv.com/news/2021-02-17/future-employment-contracts-may-insist-workers-have-been-vaccinated-justice-secretary-says