Government announces further lockdown easing from 4 July 2020

In welcome news to many employers in the hospitality and leisure sectors the Government has today announced that many businesses, including restaurants, pubs, hotels, cinemas, theme parks and hairdressers will be able to reopen from 4 July 2020, provided they are COVID-secure in accordance with Government guidance, which is to be published shortly. Unfortunately, for those businesses providing ‘close-contact’ services, including indoor gyms and swimming pools, there is still no go-live date.

At the same time, the Government has announced that, also from 4 July 2020, there will be a reduction in the current two metre social distancing rule, to ‘one metre plus’.  In effect, this means that individuals should remain at least one metre apart whilst also taking other mitigating steps to reduce the risk of transmission.  The Government will publish further guidance for businesses on how to keep employees and customers safe in this regard but has suggested mitigating steps could include:

  • avoiding face-to-face seating by changing office layouts;
  • reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces;
  • improving ventilation;
  • using protective screens and face coverings;
  • closing non-essential social spaces;
  • providing hand sanitiser; and
  • changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams.

Businesses which have already reopened and implemented COVID-secure measures based on 2 metre distancing will need to assess the impact of today’s announcement and decide how best to approach these new, less restrictive distancing measures.

Employers will, however, also welcome the news that schools are expected to fully reopen for all primary and secondary school children from September 2020 which will assist those staff who have had to balance childcare responsibilities with work over the lockdown period.  The Government is also encouraging parents who have children who are already able to go to school (including those in Reception and Years 1, 6, 10 and 12) to allow their children to attend.  The Government has also announced that wrap-around care for school age children will restart over the summer.

Other key points to note from today’s announcement include:

  • Businesses who provide indoor hospitality will be limited to table-service, and staff and customer contact should be kept to a minimum.
  • Businesses will be asked to help NHS Test and Trace respond to any local outbreaks by collecting contact details from customers.
  • Courts and other public services will increasingly resume face-to-face proceedings.
  • As yet, there is no indication whether there will be a change to the current guidance that any employees who are able to work from home should do so.  Employers will need to keep a watching brief in this regard.
  • The Government will reintroduce restrictions in the event of a future flare-up of coronavirus and emphasises that caution remains the watchword.

NB Today’s announcement relates to England only. The devolved administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will announce separate plans for the easing of their existing lockdown measures.

Update 24 June 2020

The Government has now published the following new or updated Working safely during coronavirus guidance documents: