COVID-19: New measures impacting on employers announced today

Following the statements made yesterday by Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, and a shift in the COVID-19 alert level to 4 (virus is high or rising exponentially), the Prime Minister has today confirmed the following measures will take effect in England, impacting on many employers:

  • In a return to the previous guidance,  the government is now asking employees who can work from home, to do so again.
  • From Thursday 24 September 2020, pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues will be required to close (not just take last orders) at 10 pm and will be able to offer table service only.
  • Workers in retail, taxis and staff and customers in indoor hospitality will be required to wear face coverings (other than when seated at a table to eat or drink).
  • COVID-Secure guidance for the retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors will be made a legal obligation, with penalties of up to £10,000 for non-compliance.
  • From Monday 28 September 2020,  permitted attendees at weddings will be reduced to 15. Funerals remain at 30.
  • Previously shielded individuals will not need to shield unless they are in a local lockdown area.
  • Plans for live audiences to return to sports fixtures will be paused (so too will the existing pilot scheme).
  • Business conference and exhibition venues will not reopen on 1 October 2020 as planned.
  • The rule of 6 will be extended to all adult indoor team sports.
  • There will tighter penalties for non-compliance. The fine for a breach of the rule of 6 or a failure to wear a face covering will be doubled for a first offence to £200.
  • The police and local authorities will be given funding to enforce the rules and will be able to draw on military support if required.
  • The restrictions may last for 6 months.

The Prime Minister will also be making a live broadcast to the nation at 8 pm tonight.

NB yesterday the government also confirmed that in local lockdown areas where household mixing is currently prohibited, there is now an exemption for carers of children under the age of 14, as part of a consistent childcare relationship. This will facilitate the ongoing provision of informal childcare arrangements, for example, grandparents looking after a grandchild.

Today, however, contrary to common expectations, there has been no announcement extending the restrictions on household mixing to the rest of England.  The rule of 6, however, continues to apply.

Update – announcements re Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon has now made a statement outlining the measures which will take effect in Scotland:

  • Everyone who can work from home, should work from home (this has been the Scottish guidance throughout). A legal duty  may be imposed on businesses to allow home working, where possible, if employers do not voluntarily comply.
  • From Friday 25 September 2020, pubs, bars and restaurants will be required to close at 10 pm.
  • From Wednesday 23 September 2020 (but with legal force from Friday 25 September), visiting other households in indoor spaces is not permitted – subject to certain exceptions for those living alone who form extended households; for couples in non- cohabiting relationships; for the provision of informal childcare; and for tradespeople.  This will be reviewed every 3 weeks.
  • Meeting in public indoor spaces is permitted with one other household only, subject to a maximum of 6 people.
  • Meeting in outdoor spaces (including private gardens) is permitted with one other household only, subject to a maximum of 6 people. However, children under the age of 12 are exempt from the limit of 2 households and the cap on 6 people, and children aged 12-18 are exempt from the limit of 2 households.
  • Car sharing with people outside a household is not advised.
  • Previously shielded individuals should follow the guidance for the general population.