This email is part of a regular update I send out to businesses in Scunthorpe. If you have not received this email directly from me please click here to subscribe to my COVID-19 Business newsletter for future updates.
This afternoon the Government released a 50-page document on their exit strategy, along with a series of new guides for businesses set to reopen soon. I wanted to update you on the important information as well as some key upcoming events.
Please remember that all dates mentioned are conditional, based on our progress with the five tests for restriction changes set out by the Prime Minister. and subject to scientific advice.
NO CHANGE FOR BUSINESSES INSTRUCTED TO CLOSE IN MARCH
All business instructed to close in March should stay closed. Those working from home are strongly encouraged to continue doing so.
SAFETY FIRST FOR BUSINESSES THAT CAN OPERATE
Businesses where employees are unable to work from home, such as construction and manufacturing, are encouraged to restart operations.
However, it is important that you should first consult the Government's "Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)" guideline beforehand. This is an important document and must be looked at before starting work.
Please note that depending on your industry you may have a duty to consult with an employee "health and safety representative", and that employees can report safety issues to the Health and Safety Executive.
I know that North Lincolnshire Council has also been conducting workplace inspections in Scunthorpe during recent weeks to ensure that protections are in place for workers.
The vast majority of Scunthorpe employers that I have worked with have always put their employee's health and safety first, and this has to continue as we slowly and safely open up our economy again.
As of now, the furlough scheme is still set to last at least until the end of June. The minimum period of furlough is still three weeks. Please consider these two factors as you carefully plan for your next steps.
The Chancellor is set to announce more details on the Government's support packages, including furlough, tomorrow. The Business Secretary will also be making a statement tomorrow. As usual, I will provide you with an update.
SHIELDING AND VULNERABLE PEOPLE
The Government advice for those who are "clinically vulnerable", (ie those who have received an NHS letter) remains the same.
The NHS letter sets out clearly that their will be in danger if they are exposed to the virus. As I have consistently said, you are strongly encouraged to furlough clinically vulnerable employees who have been asked to shield. You should also strongly consider employees who are living with family members who have been asked to shield.
Moving forward the Government's scientific advisors make regular risk assessments for those who are clinically vulnerable - and will provide increasingly specific advice.
The lack of childcare is a valid "barrier to work". You should talk to your employee about their childcare provisions - and if they are unable to work due to childcare concerns you should consider placing them on furlough for the time being.
Restrictions between households currently remain in place so babysitting outside of your immediate family is not permitted.
The Education Secretary is set to provide an update on childcare in the near future. The situation with childcare will improve once the scientific advice makes it clear for students to start carefully returning to schools.
KEY INDUSTRY UPDATES
FACTORIES, PLANTS AND WAREHOUSES: Please note Section 1, Paragraph 3 of new guidelines: ‘You must consult with the health and safety representative selected by a recognised trade union or, if there isn’t one, a representative chosen by workers. As an employer, you cannot decide who the representative will be’.
RETAIL: Subject to the latest data and scientific advice some non-essential retail may be allowed to reopen in phases from June 1st. Further guidance is coming on which shops can open first. In the meantime, I encourage you to mull over the new safety guide released today.
HOSPITALITY AND LEISURE: July 4th has been pitched as the earliest date from which SOME facilities could reopen with social distancing in place. Today’s document named cinemas, pubs, food service providers, accommodation, hairdressers and beauty salons as places that could open in July as long as they are Covid-Secure. The document seems to hint that music or sports venues and nightclubs may have to wait longer.
CARE HOMES: Today, the government has created a portal dedicated solely to tests for care home staff and residents. Both carers and residents are now eligible, symptomatic or asymptomatic. Care Home Manager must apply.
My advice to you:
I know that these are difficult times for all of us. I also know that many businesses and employees are bursting to get back into action, as long as it is safe to do so.
There is still time - furlough will still be available at least until the end of next month, and potentially further, and there may be little benefit in prematurely ending your employee's furlough before the minimum 3-week period.
I would suggest consulting with your employees to outline the safety provisions that you will put in place and hear their concerns. We are all in this together and this has to be a matter of consent and consensus, not of coercion.
Lastly, those who have COVID-19 symptoms, or those living with people displaying symptoms must self-isolate as per the Government guidelines. Your employees should be entitled to a COVID-19 test which should allow them to come back to work if they do not have the virus. You can find out more about testing here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested
I will continue to forward your concerns to my colleagues in Government and stand up for the workers and businesses in Scunthorpe. As usual, please do not hesitate to get in touch if there is anything I can help with, and I, of course, will keep you updated on the latest developments.